Lafler v. Cooper

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Post-Conviction Relief
  • Date Filed: March 21, 2012
  • Case #: 10-209
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court which was joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ. Scalia, J., wrote a dissent, which was joined by Thomas, J., and by Roberts with respect to all but Part IV. Alito, J., also wrote a dissent.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Sixth Amendment's protections extend to plea bargains, and a full and fair trial does not remedy a pretrial violation, even where the trial itself was not prejudiced by the error.

Respondent was convicted of multiple felonies after he rejected a plea deal on the advice of counsel. Both parties agree that the advice to reject the plea was below the Sixth Amendment’s standard for effective assistance of counsel. The appeals court upheld the conviction, and the Supreme Court of Michigan declined to hear the case. The district court granted Respondent’s petition for federal habeas corpus relief and required the state to either offer Respondent the sentencing terms of the rejected plea or to release him from custody. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The State of Michigan appealed.

The Supreme Court held that for a defendant to show he was prejudiced by ineffective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining after later being convicted in a jury trial, the defendant must show that: (1) but for the ineffective assistance of counsel there is a reasonable probability that the defendant would have accepted the plea offer and that the prosecutor would not have withdrawn the offer after the acceptance, (2) that the court would have accepted the terms of the plea, and (3) and that the conviction or sentence, or both, would have been more favorable to the defendant than those that were in fact imposed.

The court found that Respondent met his burden, vacated the Sixth Circuit’s judgment and remanded with instructions that the proper remedy is for the district court judge to order the State to re-offer the plea agreement. If respondent accepts the plea, the state trial court can then exercise its discretion to either: (1) vacate the convictions and resentence respondent pursuant to the plea agreement, (2) vacate some of the convictions and resentence respondent with respect to those convictions, or (3) to leave undisturbed the convictions and sentence from trial.

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