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05/17/73 United States of America v. Thomas M. Phillips

May 17, 1973






Bazelon, Chief Judge, Wisdom,. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, and Richey,.. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia.


Appellant was convicted of robbery. *fn1 Since the grounds urged for reversal are without merit, the conviction is affirmed. But there is a matter relating to the administration of the Youth Corrections Act which requires our attention.

Appellant was 20 years of age at the time of his conviction and, at the direction of the trial judge, was evaluated for Youth Corrections commitment pursuant to section 5010(e) of the Act. The 5010(e) report recommended adult sentencing and, relying on that report, the trial judge imposed an adult sentence of 2-6 years. The sentencing occurred before this court's decisions in United States v. Coefield and United States v. Reed & Hoston. *fn2 This case was on appeal when those decisions issued. We think they require that, in the present case, the sentence be vacated and the case remanded for reconsideration of Youth Corrections treatment. I

An offender less than 22 years of age at the time of his conviction is eligible for Youth Corrections Act treatment. *fn3 The Act provides the trial judge with four options: (1) granting probation, § 5010(a); (2) committing the offender to a federal Youth Center for up to six years' indeterminate sentence, § 5010(b); (3) committing the offender for a maximum term of over six years but not exceeding the maximum sentence for the crime involved, § 5010(c); or (4) sentencing the offender as an adult, § 5010(d). "Congress [has] found that young people between the ages of 16-22, especially, were hopeful subjects for rehabilitation," hence clothed them with a presumptive right to treatment under the Act. *fn4 Accordingly, an adult sentence may be imposed " only if the applicable facts in the individual case meet the statutory requirements," *fn5 which include a finding that the offender "will not [derive] benefit from rehabilitative treatment" under the Act. *fn6 This court has held that the no -benefit finding must be explicit and affirmative; *fn7 that it is not enough to merely track the language of the statute; *fn8 and that the basis for the court finding must appear in a statement of "reasons from which it can be determined that [the sentencing decision] is consistent with the purposes of the Act." *fn9

We also defined the scope of appellate review:

What Congress has done, out of its urgent concern for saving the young while there is still time, is to require of the sentencing court in one limited but highly important area of sentencing the exposure on the record of the factors which informed and shaped the particular exercise of its discretion. An appellate court can only be concerned with the rationality of those factors in relation to Congressional objectives. *fn10

The relevant Congressional objective is that an eligible offender should be denied Youth Corrections treatment "[only] in the exceptional case [where the sentencing judge is] convinced the youth is incorrigible and would derive no help from the program." *fn11 This is the legal criterion against which a sentencing court's reasons are to be measured.

While we have held that a denial of Youth Corrections treatment must be accompanied by a statement of reasons, we have also said that where a trial judge orders and follows the recommendation of 5010(e) study, " additional reasons need not be stated, although, of course, the judge is not precluded from adding reasons of his own." *fn12 This presupposes that the report provides the requisite reasons. In that case, when the sentencing judge adopts the reasons in the 5010(e) report as his own, a restatement would be redundant. This adoption does not, however, obviate the need for exposure of the "factors which informed and shaped" the sentencing decision, nor relieve this court of responsibility to determine whether those reasons, from whatever source, demonstrate a "present and visible" rationality to Congressional objectives. *fn13 II

When an offender is committed for observation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 5010(e), he is assigned to a Youth Center Classification Committee composed of an administrator, a parole officer, and a clinical psychologist. The parole officer, a social worker, submits a written classification study reviewing the offender's background, prior record, and the circumstances of the instant offense. The clinical psychologist also submits his individual evaluation. The three professional staff members of the Committee then prepare a joint evaluation and recommendation. These three documents comprise the 5010(e) report. The completed report is forwarded to the D.C. Board of Parole, which makes its own recommendation in a covering letter and transmits the report to the District Court. The Board of Parole is composed of three appointees, only one of whom serves full-time and is salaried. *fn14 Its members are not required to be professionals in corrections. III

In the present case, the 5010(e) report recommended adult sentencing and the Board of Parole joined in that recommendation. The trial judge had only the following to say about the report and the accompanying transmittal letter:

The Court has received a report from the Youth Center recommending against incarceration there stating among other things that the defendant appears to be a street-wise individual; that they feel he would not benefit from the Youth Program and they recommend that he be sentenced as an adult.

Accordingly, since that is the purpose of the 5010(e) study, to determine whether or not the subject is likely to be rehabilitated, the Court will follow the suggestion of the Board of Parole and the report from ...

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