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Probation Officer Cannot Order Drug Classes

USA v. Jerre Nishida Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 21-10070, Opinion Date: November 17, 2022. Defendant contends that the district court impermissibly delegated to a nonjudicial officer the authority to “decide the nature or extent of” her punishment by giving her probation officer discretion to require inpatient treatment as part of her supervised release. Defendant argued on appeal that the treatment conditions are unlawful because they purport to delegate to the probation officer authority to determine her punishment, which is a function reserved exclusively for the court. The Ninth Circuit vacated two special conditions of supervised release and remanded for resentencing so that the district court can clarify the scope of authority delegated to the probation officer. The court explained that Defendant did not contest that she knowingly and voluntarily waived her “right to assert any and all legally waivable claims,” and the panel rejected Defendant’s argument that the district court’s statements about her ability to appeal vitiated her appeal waiver. The panel noted that when a defendant with an otherwise valid appeal waiver challenges the legality of her sentence, the claim as to waiver rises and falls with the claim on the merits. The panel reviewed for plain error whether the treatment conditions, which Defendant did not challenge in the district court, are illegal. Further, the panel found that the district court committed plain error affecting Defendant’s substantial rights because she must comply with the conditions or face revocation of her supervised release. The panel therefore vacated the substance-abuse and mental-health treatment conditions and remanded for resentencing so that the district court can clarify the scope of authority delegated to the probation officer.


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