United States v. Guerrero

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Appellate Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-31-2012
  • Case #: 11-10577
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Murguia for the Court; District Judge Ezra; Dissent by Circuit Judge Reinhardt
  • Full Text Opinion

The Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction to review non-final judgments, unless the Collateral Order Doctrine or a Writ of Mandamus applies.

Co-defendants Guerrero and Sablan were indicted for first-degree murder, first-degree murder of a U.S. correctional officer, and murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence. Guerrero filed, and was granted, a motion for psychological evaluation. He also filed a motion to seal his pretrial competency proceedings and related filings, which the district court denied. Guerrero filed an interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying that motion. On appeal, the Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to hear this non-final judgment appeal under the collateral order doctrine. Three elements must be satisfied to meet the collateral order doctrine. The order must (1) “conclusively determine the disputed question, (2) resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits, and (3) be unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.” The third requirement was at issue in this case. “An effective unreviewable decision is one that would ‘imperil a substantial public interest or come particular value of a high order.’” The benefits of an immediate appeal on a motion to seal do not outweigh the public’s interest in access, because trial courts are already effective and efficient in balancing the defendant’s interest against that of the public. The Court also denied Guerrero’s petition for a writ of mandamus, because it found a qualified First Amendment right of access to mental competency hearings, which was not in error under the Supreme Court’s “error and logic test.” In denying Guerrero’s motion to seal, the district court did not infringe his rights to a fair trial, privacy, or the attorney-client privilege and work product, because none of these rights overrides the public’s interest in open proceedings. DISMISSED.

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