Rodriguez v. United States

480 U. S. 522

March 23, 1987

Federal law permitted judges to suspend prison time and impose probation instead. Then, another law was passed which set a mandatory 2 year prison term for any felony committed during the judicial proceedings of a prior offense. Whether this mandatory 2 year term could also be suspended under the terms of the first law was at issue in this case.

In an 8-1 per curiam decision, the Court held that the laws were not in conflict, and that the two year term could be suspended. Later enactments are not presumed to create exceptions to previous enactments without clear textual evidence, or at least persuasive legislative history. In this case, neither the text nor the history suggested that the 2 year rule was to be exempt from a judge’s power to suspend punishments. Blackmun concurred only in judgment without explanation, and Marshall dissented, adhering to his view that parties should always be given an opportunity to make a case prior to summary judgment.

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