Monday, July 09, 2012

Are across the board appellate waivers also unethical?

Perhaps.  Professor Berman has the story on a judge rejecting a plea deal with an appellate waiver here.

From the Denver Post:

They began appearing in federal criminal cases in Colorado after the state's current U.S. attorney, John Walsh, took office in 2010, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the office. Walsh, Dorschner said, was concerned about wasting the court's and the government's resources when defendants appeal the sentences they received after initially agreeing to those sentences in plea deals. Such appeals are almost always denied.
"The concept is simple," Dorschner said. "If you are sentenced within the guideline you agree to in the plea agreement, then you don't have the ability to appeal that sentence. ... This is the most narrow, limited appellate waiver I think you're going to find."
In a brief urging Kane to accept the deal, prosecutors wrote that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has found appellate waivers acceptable. Prosecutors say they are legitimate parts of the bargaining process.
Vanderwerff's attorney also urged Kane to accept the deal.
"Both sides benefit from it," Assistant Federal Public Defender Edward Harris wrote.
Harris did not return a call for comment.
Kane, though, viewed the waiver dimly.
"[S]acrificing constitutional rights at the altar of efficiency," he wrote, "is of dubious legality."

 From the opinion:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s holding that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are merely advisory, not mandatory, see United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 247 (2005), no circuit court has revisited the enforceability of appellate waivers.  Sentencing, post-Booker, requires a trial court to consider context and to apply criteria rather than perform a mechanical or clerical entry of a matrixed judgment.  See United States v. Calderon-Villaneuva, 1:12-cr-235, Order Denying Unopposed Motion to Enter into Plea Agreement Containing an Appeal Waiver (doc. 14) (D. Colo. June 28, 2012).  Ethical and moral values inevitably infuse the decisionmaking process, but they must be justified by being drawn from governing texts in statutes and judicial opinions and established principles of fairness generally accepted by the community affected by the criminal conduct, i.e., the fundamental values widely accepted by society and identifiable as such.
The responsibility of appellate review is to decide how well the sentencing judge has established the sentence within this described discipline.  That is fundamentally dissimilar to the pre-Booker function of determining whether an arithmetic calculation has been executed correctly.  Rather, reviewing sentences under an abuse of discretion standard is a complex inquiry meant to assure that the judicial administration of justice is relevant to the values and expectations of society.
Indiscriminate acceptance of appellate waivers undermines the ability of appellate courts to ensure the constitutional validity of convictions and to maintain consistency and reasonableness in sentencing decisions.  Indeed, appellate waivers would have insulated from review the underlying convictions in some of the most notable criminal decisions in the Supreme Court’s recent history.  See Nancy J. King and Michael E. O’Neill, Appeal Waivers and the Future of Sentencing Policy, 55 Duke L. J. 209, 249 (2005) (noting that waivers would have precluded appellate review in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000); Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004); and United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005)).  Thus, such waivers should only be included where they are justified by the facts and circumstances of a particular case.


Anonymous said...

go to trial.

if you're scared, get a dog.

Anonymous said...

3:46 is right - every case should go to trial.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to be a tough guy big shot trial lawyer with other people's time - the hard decisions are made when a reasonable plea offer is put on the table and you advise your client to take it. No client will ever hold it against a lawyer when the lawyer says the government sucks, etc., go to trial; but they do get pissed when you tell them it is in their best interests to take a plea.

Anonymous said...

and, if you take a plea, you and the client will never know if it was the right decision.

Anonymous said...

Cases should always go to trial because judges never impose a trial penalty. What's the downside?

Anonymous said...

A jury trial is a constitutional right that defendants waive when they plead guilty. There is no constitutional right to appeal. Go to trial if you want to appeal.