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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 The case involves a defendant’s supervised release, which was revoked because he admitted to violating its terms by helping to distribute marijuana and U.S. Judge Theresa Springmann in Fort Wayne sanctioned him with 36-months in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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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