[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Bloate v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that time granted to prepare pretrial motions is not automatically excludable under the Speedy Trial Act [18 USC § 3161(h)(1) text]. The court held that such time may be excluded only when a district court grants a continuance. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld [opinion, PDF] Taylor Bloate's conviction, ruling that time granted to file pretrial motions is automatically excludable. In reversing that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote:
This case requires us to decide the narrow question whether time granted to a party to prepare pretrial motions is automatically excludable from the Act's 70-day limit under subsection (h)(1), or whether such time may be excluded only if a court makes case-specific findings under subsection (h)(7). The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that pretrial motion preparation time is automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1). We granted certiorari and now reverse.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion. Justice Samuel Alito dissented, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer.
The Speedy Trial Act requires that a criminal defendant's trial begin within 70 days after he is charged or makes an initial appearance, whichever is later, and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met. The act excludes from the 70-day period delays due to certain enumerated events. In the time leading up to Taylor Bloate's trial, the district court granted Bloate's request for extra time to prepare pretrial motions, and the appeals court ruled that the time was automatically excludable. Monday's ruling resolves a circuit split on the issue.