In United States v. King, No. 21-12963 (Jan. 23, 2023) (Rosenbaum, Grant, Tjoflat), the Court—without oral argument—affirmed the defendant’s 36-month sentence for violating his supervised release.

The Court rejected the defendant’s arguments that his sentence was substantively unreasonable.  Although the defendant argued that the sentence was a major upward variance from the guideline range of 4-10 months, he repeatedly accepted responsibility, and he was less than a year away from completing his supervision, the district court acted within its discretion by weighing the 3553(a) factors.

Responding to the dissent’s argument, the Court found that the district court did not commit plain error by sentencing the defendant based on his need for rehabilitation, in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Tapia.  The defendant forfeited that issue by failing to raise it on appeal, and his argument challenging the substantive reasonableness of his sentence did not cover this procedural error.  Even assuming that the district court committed an error, it did not plainly err or violate the defendant’s substantial rights.  The district court does not violate Tapia merely by discussing how defendants would benefit from a drug abuse program after it imposes sentence; it errs only when it imposes or extends a sentence for the purpose of promoting rehabilitation, which did not clearly occur here.

Judge Rosenbaum dissented because she believed that the district court plainly erred by giving significant weight to rehabilitation when imposing the sentence.