United States v. Davila: No. 12-167: Although Judge’s Statements Made During In Camera Plea Conference Violated Rule 11, Error Does Note Require Plea to Be Vacated
Things have been busy in these last couple of weeks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, so I’ll keep this short. Federal criminal defense and federal criminal appeals lawyers, especially those practicing in the Southern District of Florida or the Eleventh Circuit, will be interested to know that the US Supreme Court has reversed the Eleventh Circuit on an important issue: the consequences of a judge’s violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 regarding guilty pleas. In United States v. Davila, No. 12-167, the Court held that even though the Magistrate Judge who presided over an in camera plea conference made statements which violated Rule 11’s ban on judicial participation in plea discussions, Davila was not entitled to have his guilty plea vacated because he failed to show that he was prejudiced by the judge’s statements.
Is it just me, or does anyone else notice the irony of this decision? This is a rare case where the Eleventh Circuit actually sided with the criminal defendant, and afforded him relief. Yet, on certiorari review, the US Supreme Court took the position most often taken by the Eleventh Circuit–and denied the criminal defendant relief.