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United States v. Pocklington

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 2, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
PETER HUGH POCKLINGTON, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California April 6, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 5:09-cr-00043-VAP-1. Virginia A. Phillips, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Criminal Law

The panel reversed the district court's order retroactively revoking a defendant's probation and imposing penalties for purported probation violations.

The panel held that 18 U.S.C. § 3565(c), which conditions the " power of the court" to adjudicate probation violations after the probation period expires on the issuance of " a warrant or summons" before the expiration date, is jurisdictional, and that because the government did not get a warrant or summons before the defendant's probation expired, the district court lacked jurisdiction to extend the defendant's probation beyond its termination date.

Becky Walker James (argued), James & Stewart LLP, Pacific Palisades, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Joseph B. Widman (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Riverside California; Stephanie Yonekura, Acting United States Attorney, and Robert E. Dugdale, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Criminal Division, Riverside California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Andrew J. Kleinfeld, M. Margaret McKeown, and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge McKeown.

OPINION

M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judge:

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 conditions the " power of the court" to adjudicate probation violations after the probation period expires on the issuance of " a warrant or summons" before the expiration date. 18 U.S.C. § 3565(c). In this appeal, we consider the court's authority to retroactively revoke probation and impose a criminal sentence after the period of probation has expired. We hold that § 3565(c) is jurisdictional and that when Congress used the words " warrant or summons," it meant them. Close enough doesn't fly under the statute. If the government suspects wrongdoing and wants to extend the probation period, § 3565(c) provides easy-to-follow instructions: get a warrant or summons before the probation expires. Because the government did not do so, the district court lacked jurisdiction to extend Peter Pocklington's probation beyond its termination date. We reverse and vacate the district court's post-termination order revoking Pocklington's probation and imposing penalties for purported probation violations.

Background

In his heyday a few decades ago, Pocklington built a billion-dollar financial empire and was one of the most famous businessmen in Canada. By the 1980s, he owned the country's largest car dealership, an array of real estate holdings and food manufacturing companies, and, in a hockey-crazed country, the NHL's Edmonton Oilers--a team that, under his ownership, won a record five Stanley Cups but also earned a slice of sports infamy by trading away the game's all-time greatest player, Wayne Gretzky. By 2008, Pocklington's riches had run out, and he had amassed over $19 million in liabilities. He filed for bankruptcy that year after he moved south to Indian Wells, California.

As part of his bankruptcy petition, Pocklington certified that he did not hold or control property owned by another person. In truth, though, Pocklington controlled two storage units containing almost $10,000 of his wife's property--including clothes, pictures, china, fishing gear, and sports memorabilia--and $9,344.63 in two undisclosed bank accounts. When these assets were unearthed, Pocklington was charged with two counts of bankruptcy fraud. He averted these charges by pleading guilty to the lesser ...


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