Seventh Circuit overturns a supervised release condition giving a probation officer the power determine whether a defendant could associate with “known felons,” including his own children

In United States v. Lee, the Seventh Circuit recently held that a supervised release condition prohibiting a convicted defendant from interacting with known felons “unless granted permission to do so by the probation officer” impermissibly delegated Article III powers “relating to [the defendant’s] liberty interest in familial association.” (Because two of the defendants’ sons “are felons themselves,” the release condition “allow[ed] the probation officer—instead of the district judge—to determine whether [the defendant] can enjoy the company of his own children.”)

To determine whether a condition of supervised release violates the non-delegation rule, we distinguish between permissible conditions that merely task the probation officer with performing ministerial acts or support services related to the punishment imposed and impermissible delegations that allow the officer to decide the nature or extent of the defendant’s punishment.

In this case, the district court’s release condition gave the probation officer the power to determine “whether, when, and how [the defendant] can exercise his constitutional liberty interest in familial association,” which is “much more than a ‘ministerial act.’” Therefore, the Seventh Circuit vacated the release condition and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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