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7th Circuit rules on attorney withdraw brief practicalities

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Ruling on an issue of first impression, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today extended the logic of an eight-year-old case to how criminal defendants challenge their supervised release and revocation penalties and what must be discussed in attorney withdraw briefs on those issues.

Circuit Judge Richard Posner authored a unanimous decision today in U.S. v. Vertran M. Wheaton, No. 09-3171, which grants a motion for counsel to withdraw and dismisses an appeal from the Northern District of Indiana. The case involves a defendant’s supervised release, which was revoked because he admitted to violating its terms by helping to distribute marijuana and U.S. Judge Theresa Springmann in Fort Wayne sanctioned him with 36-months in prison. But Wheaton appealed, and his court-appointed attorney filed a brief requesting to withdraw from the criminal case on the belief that the appeal is frivolous.

However, the interesting appeal issue is that Wheaton objects to the 36-month prison term imposed by the judge but not to the revocation of supervised release on the basis of the “knowing and voluntary” admissions he made.

In United States v. Knox, 287 F.3d 667, 670-72 (7th Cir. 2002), the appellate court held that a guilty plea’s voluntariness is not a potentially appealable issue that must be discussed within an Anders brief, unless the defendant wants to withdraw the plea after an attorney informs him or her about the risks of pleading guilty – he cannot retain the plea while challenging admissions on which it was based.

“He cannot in other words have his cake (a plea that may have resulted in a lighter sentence than if he had refused to plead guilty and been convicted after a trial) and eat it (withdraw admissions, made in the plea hearing, that might undermine challenges he may now wish to make after his conviction or sentence),” Judge Posner wrote, noting that no other reported case addresses that issue except for Knox.

“The logic of Knox extends to a case (also one of first impression) in which the defendant does not challenge the revocation of his supervised release,” Judge Posner wrote. “We hold therefore that he cannot be allowed to challenge admissions that undergird that revocation. He can challenge them and the revocation, but if he is content with the revocation (fearing the possible consequences of a new revocation hearing) he cannot challenge it indirectly by attacking the admissions on which it was based.”
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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