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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 The case involves a defendant’s supervised release, which was revoked because he admitted to violating its terms by helping to distribute marijuana and U.S. Judge Theresa Springmann in Fort Wayne sanctioned him with 36-months in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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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