__ U.S. __, 16-424, Class v. United States

Docket Nº:16-424
Citation:__ U.S. __, 138 S.Ct. 798, 86 U.S.L.W. 4055, 27 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 60
Opinion Judge:BREYER, Justice.
Party Name:Rodney CLASS, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES.
Attorney:Jessica R. Amunson, Washington, DC, for Petitioner. Eric J. Feigin, Washington, DC, for Respondent. Jessica Ring Amunson, Erica L. Ross, Joshua M. Parker, Corinne M. Smith, Leonard R. Powell, Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner. Jeffrey B. Wall, Acting Solicitor General, Kenneth A....
Judge Panel:BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KENNEDY and THOMAS, JJ., joined. Justice ALITO, with whom Justice KENNEDY and Justice THOMAS join, dissenting.
Case Date:February 21, 2018
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

A federal grand jury indicted Class for possessing firearms in his locked jeep, which was parked on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D. C.; 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(1) provides that “An individual . . . may not carry . . . on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm.” After the court rejected his Second Amendment and Due Process claims, Class pleaded guilty. His plea... (see full summary)

 
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__ U.S. __

138 S.Ct. 798, 86 U.S.L.W. 4055, 27 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 60

Rodney CLASS, Petitioner

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 16-424

United States Supreme Court

February 21, 2018

Argued Oct. 4, 2017.

[138 S.Ct. 800] Syllabus [*]

A federal grand jury indicted petitioner, Rodney Class, for possessing firearms in his locked jeep, which was parked on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. See 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(1) (" An individual ... may not carry ... on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm" ). Appearing pro se, Class asked the District Court to dismiss the indictment. He alleged that the statute, § 5104(e), violates the Second Amendment and the Due Process Clause. After the District Court dismissed both claims, Class pleaded guilty to " Possession of a Firearm on U.S. Capitol Grounds, in violation of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)." App. 30. A written plea agreement set forth the terms of Class’ guilty plea, including several categories of rights that he agreed to waive. The agreement said nothing about the right to challenge on direct appeal the constitutionality of the statute of conviction. After conducting a hearing pursuant to Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the District Court accepted Class’ guilty plea and sentenced him. Soon thereafter, Class sought to raise his constitutional claims on direct appeal. The Court of Appeals held that Class could not do so because, by pleading guilty, he had waived his constitutional claims.

Held : A guilty plea, by itself, does not bar a federal criminal defendant from challenging the constitutionality of his statute of conviction on direct appeal. Pp. 802 - 807.

(a) This holding flows directly from this Court’s prior decisions. Fifty years ago, in Haynes v. United States, the Court addressed a similar claim challenging the constitutionality of a criminal statute. Justice Harlan’s opinion for the Court stated that the defendant’s " plea of guilty did not, of course, waive his previous [constitutional] claim." 390 U.S. 85, 87, n. 2, 88 S.Ct. 722, 19 L.Ed.2d 923. That clear statement reflects an understanding of the nature of guilty pleas that stretches, in broad outline, nearly 150 years. Subsequent decisions have elaborated upon it. In Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628, the Court recognized that a guilty plea bars some " ‘antecedent constitutional violations,’ " related to events (such as grand jury proceedings) that " ‘occu[r] prior to the entry of the guilty plea.’ " Id., at 30, 94 S.Ct. 2098 (quoting Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 266-267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 36 L.Ed.2d 235). However, where the claim implicates " the very power of the State" to prosecute the defendant, [138 S.Ct. 801] a guilty plea cannot by itself bar it. 417 U.S., at 30, 94 S.Ct. 2098. Likewise, in Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61, 96 S.Ct. 241, 46 L.Ed.2d 195, the Court held that because the defendant’s claim was that " the State may not convict [him] no matter how validly his factual guilt is established," his " guilty plea, therefore, [did] not bar the claim." Id., at 63, n. 2, 96 S.Ct. 241. In more recent years, the Court has reaffirmed the Menna-Blackledge doctrine’s basic teaching that " ‘a plea of guilty to a charge does not waive a claim that— judged on its face— the charge is one which the State may not constitutionally prosecute.’ " United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 575, 109 S.Ct. 757, 102 L.Ed.2d 927 (quoting Menna, supra, at 63, n. 2, 96 S.Ct. 241). Pp. 802 - 805.

(b) In this case, Class neither expressly nor implicitly waived his constitutional claims by pleading guilty. As this Court understands them, the claims at issue here do not contradict the terms of the indictment or the written plea agreement and they can be resolved " on the basis of the existing record." Broce, supra, at 575, 109 S.Ct. 757. Class challenges the Government’s power to criminalize his (admitted) conduct and thereby calls into question the Government’s power to " ‘constitutionally prosecute’ " him. Ibid. (quoting Menna,

supra, at 61-62, n. 2, 96 S.Ct. 241). A guilty plea does not bar a direct appeal in these circumstances. Pp. 805 - 806.

(c) Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(a)(2), which governs " conditional" guilty pleas, cannot resolve this case. By its own terms, the Rule does not say whether it sets forth the exclusive procedure for a defendant to preserve a constitutional claim following a guilty plea. And the Rule’s drafters acknowledged that the " Supreme Court has held that certain kinds of constitutional objections may be raised after a plea of guilty" and specifically stated that Rule 11(a)(2) " has no application" to the " kinds of constitutional objections" that may be raised under the " Menna -Blackledge doctrine." Advisory Committee’s Notes on 1983 Amendments to Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 11, 18 U.S.C.App., p. 912. Because the applicability of the Menna-Blackledge doctrine is at issue here, Rule 11(a)(2) cannot resolve this case. Pp. 806 - 807.

Reversed and remanded.

BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KENNEDY and THOMAS, JJ., joined.

Jessica R. Amunson, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Eric J. Feigin, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Jessica Ring Amunson, Erica L. Ross, Joshua M. Parker, Corinne M. Smith, Leonard R. Powell, Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Jeffrey B. Wall, Acting Solicitor General, Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Eric J. Feigin, Assistant to the Solicitor General, John-Alex Romano, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

OPINION

BREYER, Justice.

Does a guilty plea bar a criminal defendant from later appealing his conviction on the ground that the statute of conviction [138 S.Ct. 802] violates the Constitution? In our view, a guilty plea by itself does not bar that appeal.

I

In September 2013, a federal grand jury indicted petitioner, Rodney Class, for possessing firearms in his locked jeep, which was parked in a lot on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. See 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(1) (" An individual ... may not carry ... on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm" ). Soon thereafter, Class, appearing pro se, asked the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the indictment. As relevant here, Class alleged that the statute, § 5104(e), violates the Second Amendment. App. in No. 15-3015 (CADC), pp. 32-33. He also raised a due process claim, arguing that he was denied fair notice that weapons were banned in the parking lot. Id., at 39. Following a hearing, the District Court denied both claims. App. to Pet. for Cert. 9a.

Several months later, Class pleaded guilty to " Possession of a Firearm on U.S. Capitol Grounds, in violation of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)." App. 30. The Government agreed to drop related charges. Id., at 31.

A written plea agreement set forth the terms of Class’ guilty plea, including several categories of rights that he expressly agreed to waive. Those express waivers included: (1) all defenses based upon the statute of limitations; (2) several specified trial rights; (3) the right to appeal a sentence at or below the judicially determined, maximum sentencing guideline range; (4) most collateral attacks on the conviction and sentence; and (5) various rights to request or receive information concerning the investigation and prosecution of his criminal case. Id ., at 38-42. At the same time, the plea agreement expressly enumerated categories of claims that Class could raise on appeal, including claims based upon (1) newly discovered evidence; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) certain statutes providing for sentence reductions. Id., at 41. Finally, the plea agreement stated under the heading " Complete Agreement" : " No agreements, promises, understandings, or representations have been made by the parties or their counsel other than those contained in writing herein, nor will any such agreements ... be made unless committed to writing and signed...." Id., at 45.

The agreement said nothing about the right to raise on direct appeal a claim that the statute of conviction was unconstitutional.

The District Court held a plea hearing during which it reviewed the terms of the plea agreement (with Class present and under oath) to ensure the validity of the plea. See Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 11(b); United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622, 629, 122 S.Ct. 2450, 153 L.Ed.2d 586 (2002) (defendants guilty plea must be "voluntary " and " related waivers" must be made "knowing[ly]...

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