Another Day, Another Ruling on Preserving Issues for Appeal

For the second day in a row, the Sixth Circuit contends with whether a defendant properly preserved his appellate rights. In United States v. Matromatteo, the Sixth Circuit was confronted with a situation where a defendant approached the district court and stated that he was pleading guilty, but preserving his right to appeal the denial of his Motion to Suppress and Motion for a Franks Hearing. The defendant did not have a written plea agreement, but the government did not expressly object to the defendant's contention that his plea was conditional. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit found that the requirement that the conditional plea be in writing is not jurisdictional:

"We hold that Mastromatteo’s failure to obtain a clear, written conditional plea is not a jurisdictional bar to our hearing this appeal. What is apparent from the plea hearing is that Mastromatteo made it clear that he wished to preserve his right to appeal, the government acknowledged that he could appeal, and the court accepted that."

The Court went on, "[d]espite technical infirmities, Mastromatteo’s plea was indeed a conditional plea. The failure to follow the exact format of Rule 11(a)(2) is no bar to Mastromatteo’s appeal because “Rule 11(a)(2)’s intent and purpose have been fulfilled.” Yasak, 884 F.2d at 1000; see also FED. R. CRIM. P. 11(h)."

So, apparently for the Sixth Circuit, a conditional plea is preserved when the defendant makes it clear his intent and the government's not objecting to that intent.

The Sixth then found that the district court did not clearly err in finding that the defendant did not have standing to challenge the search of a residence.

The Sixth offered the opinion that even if they had found standing, the defendant's Motion for a Franks hearing was correctly denied. The Sixth also emphasized its standard of review for denial of Franks motions was the same standard as a motion to suppress, i.e. factual findings for clear error and conclusions of law, de novo.

So for the second day in a row, the Sixth publishes cases instructive to defense counsel that, while all they need to do to preserve pretrial motions for review when they plead guilty is to express the desire to enter a conditional plea (so long as the governemnt doesn't object), they also need to expressly preserve all the Motions they wish to appeal in that conditional plea.