Ninth Circuit Amends Garcia on Appellate Jurisdiction

According to Ninth Circuit Blog, the Ninth Circuit “came to its jurisdictional senses” with its amended opinion in U.S. v. Garcia, case no. 05-30356 (9th Cir. Nov. 19, 2007, amended Apr. 17, 2008). While I might have said that a little more gently, I agree with the sentiment.

I covered the relevant holding regarding appellate jurisdiction in my original coverage:

The two defendants challenging their sentences in this case claimed that the trial court erred even though the sentences imposed were within the ranges stipulated in their respective plea agreements made under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). Both defendants contended that the trial court’s miscalculation under the sentencing guidelines and its failure to consider all section 3553 factors led it to impose higher sentences than it otherwise should have, and thus the sentences, even though they were within the ranges stipulated in the plea agreements, were “in violation of law,” which would make them appealable under Title 18 United States Code section 3742(a)(1).

The Ninth disagrees, holding that even if the trial court miscalculated the guidelines or erred in applying section 3553, section 3742 does not confer appellate jurisdiction over an appeal from a sentence that is within the range stipulated in a Rule 11 plea agreement. The court points out that the agreements permitted the trial court “full discretion to impose a sentence” within the stipulated range, and thus the defendants received the benefit of their bargains regardless of where in that range they were sentenced.

The Ninth has previously held that a sentence within the statutory guidelines may be reviewed if it is challenged as “unreasonable” under application of section 3553 factors. However, the court refuses to apply the same rule to sentences within the stipulated guidelines of a plea agreement, effectively holding that section 3553 does not apply to stipulated sentencing ranges, at least where the plea agreement does not explicitly require it.

The amended opinion holds that the court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal because a Rule 11 plea in itself deprive the court of appeals of jurisdiction and the defendants did not explicitly waive their appeal rights in their plea agreements.