(Posted April 11, 2024) We get an interesting decision, in the form of a non-decision, this morning from the Supreme Court of Virginia. In Commonwealth v. Browne, the justices dismiss an appeal as moot.

This is an appeal of a probation-revocation proceeding. Browne received a partially suspended sentence, but was unable to stay out of trouble thereafter, resulting in multiple revocation proceedings. At one point, the Page County Circuit Court revoked him and reimposed a portion of the original sentence. Browne felt that the reimposed potion of the sentence was impermissibly high – there are caps on what courts can do in some circumstances – so he appealed.

He won in the Court of Appeals. That court ruled that the circuit court had to resentence him properly. But the Commonwealth appealed and got a writ, so the Supreme Court would have the last word.

Remember when I reported that Browne just couldn’t stay out of trouble? While the appeal was pending, he received enough free room and board that he finished serving the entirety of the original sentence. That means that despite his being right on the appeal, he wouldn’t get a reduction in his active incarceration time even if he ultimately prevailed. He even told the Supreme Court so while the case was pending there.

At oral argument in late February, the justices asked the parties whether Browne’s completion of the original sentence made this whole thing moot. Both parties contended that the answer was no, but today The Robes disagree. In a published order released today, the court notes that any decision on the merits wouldn’t change anything about Browne’s sentence. And since he was only appealing the amount of time imposed in the revocation proceeding, and not the fact of revocation, this proceeding couldn’t do anything other than make a retroactive declaration.

Today’s unanimous order directs the vacation of the CAV’s opinion and dismisses the case. As with all orders, we can’t know who wrote this one.