566 U.S. 156 (2012), 10-209, Lafler v. Cooper

Docket Nº10-209
Citation566 U.S. 156, 132 S.Ct. 1376, 182 L.Ed.2d 398, 80 U.S.L.W. 4244, 23 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 203
Opinion JudgeKennedy, Justice.
Party NameBLAINE LAFLER, Petitioner v. ANTHONY COOPER
AttorneyJohn J. Bursch argued the cause for petitioner. William M. Jay argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court. Valerie R. Newman argued the cause for respondent.
Judge PanelKennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined, and in which Roberts, C. J., joined as to all but Part IV, post, p. 175. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post,...
Case DateMarch 21, 2012
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 156

566 U.S. 156 (2012)

132 S.Ct. 1376, 182 L.Ed.2d 398, 80 U.S.L.W. 4244, 23 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 203

BLAINE LAFLER, Petitioner

v.

ANTHONY COOPER

No. 10-209

United States Supreme Court

March 21, 2012

Argued October 31, 2011.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

SYLLABUS

[182 L.Ed.2d 402] [132 S.Ct. 1380] Respondent was charged under Michigan law with assault with intent to murder and three other offenses. The prosecution offered to dismiss two of the charges and to recommend a 51-to-85-month sentence on the other two, in exchange for a guilty plea. In a communication with the court, respondent admitted his guilt and expressed a willingness to accept the offer. But he rejected the offer, allegedly after his attorney convinced him that the prosecution would be unable to establish intent to murder because the victim had been shot below the waist. At trial, respondent was convicted on all counts and received a mandatory minimum 185-to-360-month sentence. In a subsequent hearing, the state trial court rejected respondent's claim that his attorney's advice to reject the plea constituted ineffective assistance. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the ineffective-assistance claim on the ground that respondent knowingly and intelligently turned down the plea offer and chose to go to trial. Respondent renewed his claim in federal habeas. Finding that the state appellate court had unreasonably applied the constitutional effective assistance standards laid out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674, and Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 106 S.Ct. 366, 88 L.Ed.2d 203, the District Court granted a conditional writ and ordered specific performance of the original plea offer. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Applying Strickland, it found that counsel had provided deficient performance by advising respondent of an incorrect legal rule, and that respondent suffered prejudice because he lost the opportunity to take the more favorable sentence offered in the plea.

Held :

1. Where counsel's ineffective advice led to an offer's rejection, and where the prejudice alleged is having to stand trial, a defendant must show that but for the ineffective advice, there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer's terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed. Pp. 162-170, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 406-411.

(a) Because the parties agree that counsel's performance was deficient, the only question is how to apply Strickland 's prejudice test

Page 157

where ineffective assistance results in a rejection of the plea offer and the defendant [182 L.Ed.2d 403] is convicted at the ensuing trial. Pp. 162-163, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 406.

(b) In that context, the Strickland prejudice test requires a defendant to show a reasonable possibility that the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice. The Sixth Circuit and other federal appellate courts have agreed with the Strickland prejudice test for rejected pleas adopted here by this Court. Petitioner and the Solicitor General propose a narrow view--that Strickland prejudice cannot arise from plea bargaining if the defendant is later convicted at a fair trial--but their reasoning is unpersuasive. First, they claim that the Sixth Amendment's sole purpose is to protect the right to a fair trial, but the Amendment actually requires effective assistance at critical stages of a [132 S.Ct. 1381] criminal proceeding, including pretrial stages. This is consistent with the right to effective assistance on appeal, see, e.g. Halbert v. Michigan, 545 U.S. 605, 125 S.Ct. 2582, 162 L.Ed.2d 552, and the right to counsel during sentencing, see, e.g. Glover v. United States, 531 U.S. 198, 203-204, 121 S.Ct. 696, 148 L.Ed.2d 604. This Court has not followed a rigid rule that an otherwise fair trial remedies errors not occurring at trial, but has instead inquired whether the trial cured the particular error at issue. See, e.g.

Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 263, 106 S.Ct. 617, 88 L.Ed.2d 598. Second, this Court has previously rejected petitioner's argument that Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U.S. 364, 113 S.Ct. 838, 122 L.Ed.2d 180, modified Strickland and does so again here. Fretwell and Nix v. Whiteside, 475 U.S. 157, 106 S.Ct. 988, 89 L.Ed.2d 123, demonstrate that " it would be unjust to characterize the likelihood of a different outcome as legitimate 'prejudice,' Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 391-392, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389, where defendants would receive a windfall as a result of the application of an incorrect legal principle or a defense strategy outside the law. Here, however, respondent seeks relief from counsel's failure to meet a valid legal standard. Third, petitioner seeks to preserve the conviction by arguing that the Sixth Amendment's purpose is to ensure a conviction's reliability, but this argument fails to comprehend the full scope of the Sixth Amendment and is refuted by precedent. Here, the question is the fairness or reliability not of the trial but of the processes that preceded it, which caused respondent to lose benefits he would have received but for counsel's ineffective assistance. Furthermore, a reliable trial may not foreclose relief when counsel has failed to assert rights that may have altered the outcome. See Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 379, 106 S.Ct. 2574, 91 L.Ed.2d 305. Petitioner's position that a fair trial wipes clean ineffective assistance during plea bargaining also ignores the reality that criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials. See Missouri v. Frye, ante, at 143-144, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 182 L.Ed.2d 379. Pp. 163-170, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 406-411.

2. Where a defendant shows ineffective assistance has caused the rejection of a plea leading to a more severe sentence at trial, the remedy

Page 158

must " neutralize the taint" of a constitutional violation, United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361, 365, 101 S.Ct. 665, 66 L.Ed.2d 564, but must not grant a windfall to the defendant or needlessly squander the resources the State properly invested in the criminal prosecution, see United [182 L.Ed.2d 404] States v. Mechanik, 475 U.S. 66, 72, 106 S.Ct. 938, 89 L.Ed.2d 50. If the sole advantage is that the defendant would have received a lesser sentence under the plea, the court should have an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the defendant would have accepted the plea. If so, the court may exercise discretion in determining whether the defendant should receive the term offered in the plea, the sentence received at trial, or something in between. However, resentencing based on the conviction at trial may not suffice, e.g., where the offered guilty plea was for less serious counts than the ones for which a defendant was convicted after trial, or where a mandatory sentence confines a judge's sentencing discretion. In these circumstances, the proper remedy may be to require the prosecution to reoffer the plea. The judge can then exercise discretion in deciding whether to vacate the conviction from trial and accept the plea, or leave the conviction undisturbed. In either situation, a court must weigh various factors. Here, it suffices to give two relevant considerations. First, a court may take account of a defendant's earlier [132 S.Ct. 1382] expressed willingness, or unwillingness, to accept responsibility for his or her actions. Second, it is not necessary here to decide as a constitutional rule that a judge is required to disregard any information concerning the crime discovered after the plea offer was made. Petitioner argues that implementing a remedy will open the floodgates to litigation by defendants seeking to unsettle their convictions, but in the 30 years that courts have recognized such claims, there has been no indication that the system is overwhelmed or that defendants are receiving windfalls as a result of strategically timed Strickland claims. In addition, the prosecution and trial courts may adopt measures to help ensure against meritless claims. See Frye,

ante, at 146, 132 S.Ct. 1399, 182 L.Ed.2d 379. Pp. 170-172, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 411-412.

3. This case arises under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), but because the Michigan Court of Appeals' analysis of respondent's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim was contrary to clearly established federal law, AEDPA presents no bar to relief. Respondent has satisfied Strickland 's two-part test. The parties concede the fact of deficient performance. And respondent has shown that but for that performance there is a reasonable probability he and the trial court would have accepted the guilty plea. In addition, as a result of not accepting the plea and being convicted at trial, he received a minimum sentence 31|2 times greater than he would have received under the plea. As a remedy, the District Court ordered specific performance of the plea agreement, but the correct remedy is to order the

Page 159

State to reoffer the plea. If respondent accepts the offer, the state trial court can exercise its discretion in determining whether to vacate respondent's convictions and resentence pursuant to the plea agreement, to vacate only some of the convictions and resentence accordingly, or to leave the conviction and sentence resulting from the trial undisturbed. Pp. 172-175, 182 L.Ed.2d, at 412-414.

376 Fed.Appx. 563, vacated and remanded.

John J. Bursch argued the cause for petitioner.

William M. Jay argued the cause for the United...

To continue reading

Request your trial
103 practice notes
  • CONSTITUTIONAL LAW--EIGHTY-SIX THE SIXTH AMENDMENT: THE SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHT TO COUNSEL APPLIES TO PREINDICTMENT PLEA NEGOTIATIONS TOO-TURNER V. UNITED STATES, 885 F.3D 949 (6TH CIR. 2018) (EN BANC).
    • United States
    • Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy Vol. 25 Nbr. 1, January 2019
    • January 1, 2019
    ...Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 144 (2012) (requiring right to counsel during plea negotiations to criminal defendants); Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 162 (2012) (designating plea negotiations as critical stages deserving right to counsel). In these cases, though, the defendants were alre......
  • Gideon's amici: why do prosecutors so rarely defend the rights of the accused?
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 122 Nbr. 8, June 2013
    • June 1, 2013
    ...2221 (2012); Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012); Missouri v. Frye, 132 S. Ct. 1399 (2012); Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012); Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012); Martel v. Clair, 132 S. Ct. 1276 (2012); Messerschmidt v. Millender, 132 S. Ct. 1235 (201......
  • Pleading guilty without client consent.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 57 Nbr. 4, March 2016
    • March 1, 2016
    ...herein are solely those of the author, and not of any commentators or past, present, or future clients. (1.) See Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012) ("Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions result from guilty pleas.")--T......
  • Prison is prison.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 5, June 2013
    • June 1, 2013
    ...offers from the prosecution to accept a plea on terms and conditions that may be favorable to the accused"); Later v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012) (extending an ineffective assistance of counsel claim to a situation where an attorney gave bad advice at the plea bargaining stage......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 firm's commentaries
  • EEOC's "Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions"
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • April 25, 2012
    ...defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations. See generally Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012); Missouri v. Frye, 132 S. Ct. 1399 (2012). 107 See supra text accompanying note 39. 108 See e.g., HAW. REV. STAT. § 378-2.5(b). Under t......
  • 'Lafler v. Cooper': Supreme Court Revolutionizes Habeas Corpus
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • July 2, 2012
    ...deprivation of constitutional rights. But as explained below, as the result of a very recent Supreme Court decision in Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012), the skies for habeas petitioners may have significantly So far, Cooper has been extolled for something else—its expansion of the r......
  • Prosecutors Seeking Ineffectiveness Waivers Face Ethical Risks
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • August 6, 2013
    ...also undoubtedly concerned about the potential for more difficult ineffectiveness claims following Frye and Lafler. Missouri v. Frye, 132 S. Ct. 1399 (2012); Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012). But some states have found that these prosecutorial efforts interject a conflict between de......
96 books & journal articles
  • CONSTITUTIONAL LAW--EIGHTY-SIX THE SIXTH AMENDMENT: THE SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHT TO COUNSEL APPLIES TO PREINDICTMENT PLEA NEGOTIATIONS TOO-TURNER V. UNITED STATES, 885 F.3D 949 (6TH CIR. 2018) (EN BANC).
    • United States
    • Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy Vol. 25 Nbr. 1, January 2019
    • January 1, 2019
    ...Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 144 (2012) (requiring right to counsel during plea negotiations to criminal defendants); Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156, 162 (2012) (designating plea negotiations as critical stages deserving right to counsel). In these cases, though, the defendants were alre......
  • Gideon's amici: why do prosecutors so rarely defend the rights of the accused?
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 122 Nbr. 8, June 2013
    • June 1, 2013
    ...2221 (2012); Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012); Missouri v. Frye, 132 S. Ct. 1399 (2012); Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376 (2012); Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012); Martel v. Clair, 132 S. Ct. 1276 (2012); Messerschmidt v. Millender, 132 S. Ct. 1235 (201......
  • Pleading guilty without client consent.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 57 Nbr. 4, March 2016
    • March 1, 2016
    ...herein are solely those of the author, and not of any commentators or past, present, or future clients. (1.) See Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012) ("Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions result from guilty pleas.")--This Articl......
  • Prison is prison.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 5, June 2013
    • June 1, 2013
    ...formal offers from the prosecution to accept a plea on terms and conditions that may be favorable to the accused"); Later v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012) (extending an ineffective assistance of counsel claim to a situation where an attorney gave bad advice at the plea bargaining sta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT