Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A strong warning from the Court: make sure you file your motions even if you think a plea may occur

Today the Court issued a decision in United States v. Walden. 10a0354p.06 The defendant (and defense counsel) in Walden were pursuing a plea agreement, and as a result, let a motions deadline pass. The defendant did plea, however, when things did not go as planned, he withdrew his plea. He then asked for time to file a motion to suppress, which was denied. The defendant went to trial, and received a life sentence.

On appeal, defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion in not allowing him to file a motion to suppress. The Court first provided a definition of "good cause", stating "
Good cause is a flexible standard heavily dependent on the facts of the particular case as found and weighed by the district court in its equitable discretion. At a minimum, it requires the party seeking a waiver to articulate some legitimate explanation for the failure to timely file."

The Court then found that "if the failure to timely file occurred as a result of a lawyer’s
conscious decision not to file a pretrial motion before the deadline, the party seeking a
waiver will not be able to establish good cause."
The Court found that under the facts of the case, counsel's decision not to timely preserve a suppression issue was on the defense, and could not provide "good cause" for an untimely motion.

The moral of the story? Make sure you get an extension on the motions deadline, or file the motion to preserve the claim!

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