In United States v. Alhindi, No. 23-11349 (Apr. 1, 2024) (Rosenbaum, Newsom, Luck) (per curiam), the Court affirmed the district court’s rulings re: competency.

This appeal raised two questions regarding how to apply 18 U.S.C. § 4241, which sets forth the procedures for determining a defendant’s competency to stand trial and addressing any incompetency.

First, the Court held that the statute permits a court to order more than one competency hearing and commitment order for the same defendant in a single case.

Second, the Court held that the four-month period to which § 4241(d)(1) refers is the period during which the defendant receives treatment while he is hospitalized–meaning, it begins with the defendant’s hospitalization.  The Court rejected Mr. Alhindi’s argument that the period begins with the entry of the commitment order.

The Court specifically reserved for another time (in footnote 4)–in a case where it is properly presented–the issue of whether the Due Process Clause limits the time the BOP has to hospitalize a defendant following a district court’s order directing it to do so.

Judge Rosenbaum concurred, writing separately to point out that the Court’s holding that the four-month time limit in § 4241(d) applies to the hospitalization period does not mean that the Attorney General has free rein under the statute to hold a defendant for an unreasonable prehospitalization period after the court has ordered commitment.  She clarified that in her view, the prehospitalization period is also subject to reasonable limitations under § 4241.  She also reasoned that the delays that the Due Process Clause may tolerate may still amount to unreasonable delay under § 4241.  She specifically pointed to the government’s admission at oral argument that the average wait time over the past few years has reached as much as nine months, and noted: “That is still a long time.”

***There seems to be some room for further litigation regarding the time a defendant is held post-commitment order but pre-hospitalization, and what time period would be considered “reasonable” under the plain language of the statute and the Due Process Clause***