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Zedner v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

April 18, 2006, Argued ; June 5, 2006, Decided

No. 05-5992


 [*492]   [**1980]  Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to consider the application of the doctrines of waiver, judicial estoppel, and [****9]  harmless error to a violation of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 (Speedy Trial Act or Act), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161-3174. The Act generally requires a federal criminal trial to begin within 70 days after a defendant is charged or makes an initial appearance, § 3161(c)(1),  [**1981] but the Act contains a detailed scheme under which certain specified periods of delay are not counted. In this case, petitioner's trial did not begin within 70 days of indictment. Indeed, his trial did not commence until more than seven years after the filing of the indictment, but petitioner, at the suggestion of the trial judge, signed a blanket, prospective waiver of his rights under the Act. We address the following questions: whether this waiver was effective; whether petitioner is judicially estopped from challenging  [*493]  the validity of the waiver; and whether the trial judge's failure to make the findings required to exclude a period of delay under a particular provision of the Act, § 3161(h)(8), was harmless error.

In March 1996, petitioner attempted to open accounts at seven financial institutions using counterfeit $10 million United States bonds. The quality of the counterfeiting was, to put it mildly, not [****10]  expert.  One bond purported to be issued by the "Ministry of Finance of U.S.A."  401 F.3d 36, 39 (CA2 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).  Others contained misspelled words such as "Thunted States" and the "Onited States" (United States), "Dhtladelphla" (Philadelphia), "Cgicago" (Chicago), and "forevev" (forever).  Id., at 39, n. 1 (internal quotation marks omitted). After petitioner presented these bonds, the Secret Service was contacted, and petitioner was arrested. Following arraignment on a criminal complaint, he was released on bond.

On April 4, 1996, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York indicted petitioner on seven counts of attempting to defraud a financial institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344, and one count of knowingly possessing counterfeit obligations of the United States, in violation of § 472. On June 26, the District Court, citing the complexity of the case, granted what is termed an "ends-of-justice" continuance, see § 3161(h)(8)(B)(ii), until September 6. On September 6, the District Court granted another continuance, this time until November 8.

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547 U.S. 489 *; 126 S. Ct. 1976 **; 164 L. Ed. 2d 749 ***; 2006 U.S. LEXIS 4509 ****; 74 U.S.L.W. 4271; 46 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 649; 19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 213


Subsequent History:  [****1] On remand at, Dismissed without prejudice by United States v. Zedner, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94971 (E.D.N.Y., Oct. 13, 2006)


United States v. Zedner, 401 F.3d 36, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 3809 (2d Cir. N.Y., 2005)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


continuance, district court, speedy trial, waive, indictment, ends-of-justice, rights, period of delay, estoppel, legislative history, motion to dismiss, status conference, waivers, ends of justice, compliance, reasons, bonds, grant a continuance, guilty plea, preparation, excludable, outweigh, counted, factors, dismissal without prejudice, public interest, harmless error, authenticity, proceedings, appearance

Criminal Law & Procedure, Preliminary Proceedings, Pretrial Motions & Procedures, Dismissal, Speedy Trial, Statutory Right, Statutory Right, Excludable Time Periods, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Speedy Trial, Continuances, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Speedy Trial, Civil Procedure, Preclusion of Judgments, Estoppel, Judicial Estoppel, Appeals, Remand & Remittitur, Standards of Review, Harmless & Invited Error, General Overview