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United States v. Babich


March 12, 1986


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) (D.C. Crim. No. 82-00067).

Author: Aldisert

Before: ALDISERT, Chief Judge, and SEITZ and ADAMS, Circuit Judges.


ALDISERT, Chief Judge.

The major issue presented is whether, pursuant to our supervisory powers, this court should promulgate a rule providing that when a federal probationer is arrested for a state criminal offense, a probation revocation hearing shall not take place until after disposition of the state offense or, alternatively, the probationer shall be granted use immunity if he chooses to testify at the hearing. Appellant Gregory Babich appeals the district court's refusal to grant such relief and urges that we promulgate such a rule. Babich also addresses the merits of the district court's decision to revoke his probation and argues that the district court erred in determining that he failed to comply with the conditions of probation requiring him to notify his federal probation officer if arrested.


Appellant Babich was subject to the terms of federal probation imposed on June 28, 1982, when he was arrested by local authorities on October 8, 1984, for fraudulently using a credit card. The first condition of his federal probation provided:

You shall refrain from violation of any law (federal, state, and local). You shall get in touch immediately with your probation officer if arrested or questioned by a law-enforcement officer.

App. at 5a. Babich failed to report his arrest to his probation officer in the Western District of Pennsylvania as required by the terms of his parole. Two months after his arrest, however, Babich wrote a letter to the probation office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, apparently to seek assistance in contacting the probation officer in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The district court held the final probation revocation hearing prior to the disposition of the state criminal charges on which Babich had been arrested. Babich requested a continuance of the probation revocation hearing until the pending state criminal charges against him were resolved, or, in the alternative, a grant of use immunity for his testimony at the revocation hearing. The district court refused these requests. Babich chose not to testify, and the district court revoked his probation.


We are not strangers to the major question on appeal. This court in banc decided the precise issue in United States v. Bazzano (Mollica, appellant), 712 F.2d 826 (3d Cir. 1983)(in banc), cert. denied sub nom. Mollica v. United States, 465 U.S. 1078, 79 L. Ed. 2d 760, 104 S. Ct. 1439 (1984). A majority held that the district court did not err in falling either to postpone the probation revocation hearing until Mollica's trial on state charges or to grant Mollica use immunity if he chose to testify at the revocation hearing.*fn1

The district court considered and rejected the argument presented here: that appellant has a right to delay a probation revocation hearing or, alternatively, to be granted use immunity. Accordingly, we have jurisdiction to notice the contention on review.

Although appellant first argues that he has a constitutional right to such relief, we believe that the postponement of the revocation hearing or the grant of use immunity is not constitutionally required for the reasons set for the in United States v. Bazzano, 712 F.2d at 836-37 (separate opinion, Garth, J.); 842-43 (separate opinion, Switz, C.J.); 848 (Gibbons, J., dissenting); 849 (Sloviter, J.). We are thus left with the action taken by the full court in Bazzano. Clearly, it is binding precedent.*fn2 Moreover, it is a precedent established by the full court only three years ago. Thus, what the Supreme Court said in Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203, 104 S. Ct. 2305, 2311, 81 L. Ed. 2d 164 (1984), seems especially appropriate here:

Petitioner has invited the Court to overrule Burlington [v. Missouri, 451 U.S. 430, 68 L. Ed. 2d 270, 101 S. Ct. 1852 (1981)], decided only three years ago. We decline the invitation. Although adherence to precedent is not rigidly required in constitutional cases, any departure from the doctrine of stare decisis demands special justification. See, e.g., Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, 116, 86 S. Ct. 258, 261, 15 L. Ed. 2d 194, (1965); Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 665, 64 S. Ct. 757, 88 L. Ed. 987 (1941). Petitioner has suggested no reason sufficient to warrant our taking the exceptional action of overruling Bullington.

And more recently the Supreme Court has stated:

Today's decision is supported, though not compelled, by the important doctrine of stare decisis, the means by which we ensure that the law will not merely change erratically, but will develop in a principled and intelligible fashion. That doctrine permits society to presume that bedrock principles are founded in the law rather than in the proclivities of individuals, and thereby contributes to the integrity of our constitutional system of government, both in appearance and in fact. While stare decisis is not an inexorable command, the careful observer will discern that any detours from the straight path of stare decisis in our past have occurred for articulable reasons, and only when the Court has felt obliged "to bring its opinions into agreement with experience and with facts newly ascertained". Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393, 412, 76 L. Ed. 815, 52 S. Ct. 443 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).

Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254 (54 U.S.L.W. 4068, 4072, 88 L. Ed. 2d 598, 106 S. Ct. 617, Jan. 14, 1986).*fn3

After a careful examination of the briefs, we are satisfied that the litigants before us present no contentions that were not carefully treated in the various opinions that accompanied our decision in Bassano. We find no argument, nor have we been furnished empricial data or "Facts newly ascertained" that constitute a "special justification" to recommend that a court in banc be convened in this case to depart from the doctrine of stare decisis. What remains then is to decide if the district court properly considered and applied the court's mandate in Bazzano. We hold that it did.*fn4 We therefore conclude that the district court was not mandated by the constitution or by rule or decision of this court to postpone the hearing or to grant use immunity under the circumstances.

Turning to Babich's appeal on the merits of the revocation of his probation, we note that his conduct was deficient in several respects. Babich did not contact his probation officer as required. Moreover, his letter to the probation officer of the Middle District of Pennsylvania was sent two months after the arrest and thus did not meet the requirement that notification of arrest be given "immediately".

It is well established that the district court has broad discretion to revoke probation if its conditions are violated. United States v. Hamilton, 708 F.2d 1412 (9th Cir. 1983); United States v. Rice, 671 F.2d 455 (11th Cir. 1982). The court need only be "reasonably satisfied" that the probationer has violated the terms of his probation. United States v. Lacey, 661 F.2d 1021 (5th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 961, 72 L. Ed. 2d 484, 102 S. Ct. 2036 (1982); United States v. Manuszak, 532 F.2d 311 (3d Cir. 1976); United States v. D'Amato, 429 F.2d 1284 (3d Cir. 1970). Failure to comply with reporting requirements alone may justify probation revocation. Higdon v. United States, 627 F.2d 893, 900 (9th Cir. 1980); United States v. Rodgers, 588 F.2d 651, 654 (8th Cir. 1978).

Here the district court found that Babich violated the first condition of his probation requiring him to "get in touch immediately with [his] probation officer if arrested". App. at 5a, 30a, 80a. To the extent that appellant's argument is based on narrative or historical facts found by the district court we apply the clearly erroneous rule an will not disturb the trial court's finding; to the extent that his argument is based on a challenge to the trial court's exercise of discretion in revoking probation, we conclude that there was no abuse.

The judgment of the district court will be affirmed.

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