The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in three cases this morning: Missouri v. Frye
, No. 10-444: When respondent was charged with a felony driving offense, the prosecutor sent respondent’s counsel a letter, offering a plea bargain, but counsel did not convey the offer to respondent, and it expired. Respondent later pleaded guilty with no plea agreement and was sentenced. Seeking postconviction relief in state court, he alleged his counsel’s failure to inform him of the earlier plea offer denied him the effective assistance of counsel, and he testified that he would have taken the offer had he known of it. The state court denied his motion, but the state appellate court reversed, holding he had shown a Sixth Amendment violation of his right to effective assistance of counsel. Today the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right, which applies to all “critical” stages of criminal proceedings, extends to the consideration of plea offers that lapse or are rejected. The Court also determined that, although the state appellate court correctly concluded that counsel’s failure to inform respondent of the written plea offer before it expired fell below an objective reasonableness standard, it failed to require respondent to show that the plea offer would have been adhered to by the prosecution and accepted by the trial court, and the Court accordingly remanded for further proceedings.
The Court’s opinion is available here
. Lafler v. Cooper
, No. 10-209: Like Missouri v. Frye
above, this case also deals with ineffective assistance of counsel and plea offers. Here, the favorable plea offer was reported to the client but, on advice of counsel, was rejected, and there was a full and fair trial before a jury. After a guilty verdict, the defendant received a sentence harsher than that offered in the rejected plea bargain. As this case came to the Court, it was conceded that that counsel’s advice with respect to the plea offer fell below the standard of adequate assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, and the question was what remedy, if any, is appropriate under these circumstances. The Court today held that, where counsel’s ineffective advice has led to an offer’s rejection, and where the prejudice alleged is having to stand trial, a defendant must show that but for the ineffective advice, there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer’s terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed. Accordingly, the Court held that in this case, the correct remedy is to order the State to reoffer the plea. If respondent accepts the offer, the state trial court can exercise its discretion in determining whether to vacate respondent’s convictions and resentence pursuant to the plea agreement, to vacate only some of the convictions and resentence accordingly, or to leave the conviction and sentence resulting from the trial undisturbed.
The Court’s opinion is available here
. Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency
, No. 10-1062: Petitioners received a compliance order from the EPA, which stated that their residential lot contained navigable waters and that their construction project violated the Clean Water Act, which provides for daily civil penalties for persons who have failed to comply with a compliance order. Petitioners then sought declarative and injunctive relief in federal district court, contending that the compliance order was “arbitrary [and] capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and that it deprived them of due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The district court dismissed the claims for want of subject-matter jurisdiction, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Clean Water Act precluded pre-enforcement judicial review of compliance orders and that such preclusion did not violate due process. The Court today reversed the Ninth Circuit, holding that petitioners may bring a civil action under the APA to challenge the issuance of the EPA’s order, and that the Clean Water Act does not preclude such actions. The APA provides for judicial review of “final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court,” 5 U. S. C. §704, the compliance order here has all the hallmarks of APA finality, and although a civil action brought by the EPA ordinarily provides judicial review, petitioners cannot initiate that process, and each day they wait, they accrue additional potential liability. For similar reasons, applying to the Corps of Engineers for a permit and then filing suit under the APA if that permit is denied also does not provide an adequate remedy under the circumstances of this case.
The Court’s opinions is available here