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Media Alerts - United States v. Grimes--Third Circuit
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January 8, 2014
  United States v. Grimes--Third Circuit
Headline: Appellate waiver found to not be a miscarriage of justice

Area of Law: Procedural

Issues Presented: Whether a waiver of certain post-conviction rights nullifies an appellate waiver

Brief Summary: Grimes claimed that his appellate waiver should be invalid because his counsel had a conflict of interest in that the waiver included collateral claims based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Grimes argued that this conflict rendered him unable to knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights. He also claimed that the waiver should not be enforced because it would result in a miscarriage of justice. The Court holds that, because there is no evidence in the record that Grimes' counsel had an actual conflict, the assertion that any waiver of the right to collateral attack based on ineffective assistance of counsel is not sufficient to invalidate the waiver. The Court also holds that there was no miscarriage of justice because the circumstances here do not implicate any fundamental or constitutional rights and that this is exactly the type of appeal that the waiver was intended to foreclose.

Significance (if any):

Extended Summary: This case centers on Grimes' waiver of his direct and collateral appeal rights. Grimes, a university professor, was convicted of wire fraud, false statements, and money laundering relating to misuse of federal science grants. He signed a plea agreement which contained a waiver of his direct and collateral appeal rights. The Magistrate Judge specifically discussed the appellate waiver with Grimes and he stated that he understood he was waiving his rights and had discussed it with counsel. Grimes claimed that his counsel had a conflict of interest when advising him to waive his rights to collateral appeal based on ineffective assistance and so the waiver should be invalid. Grimes claimed that this conflict caused him to not be able to voluntarily and knowingly waive his rights, and that, even if it was a knowing and voluntary waiver, it should still not be enforced because enforcement would result in a miscarriage of justice.

An appellate waiver will be enforced if the issue the defendant pursues on appeal falls within the scope of the waiver, and he knowingly and voluntarily agreed to the appellate waiver, unless enforcing the waiver would work a miscarriage of justice. There was no dispute about the scope of the appellate waiver. The Court rejected Grimes' claim that his waiver was not voluntary because his attorney's alleged conflict left him without effective counsel to negotiate and enter a guilty plea, noting that he did not seek to withdraw the plea but only challenged the waiver.

While ineffective counsel may render an appellate waiver invalid, there was no evidence in the record to show that there was an actual conflict of interest in this case. The court held that Grimes' waiver of his right to appeal was knowing and voluntary and that the plea agreement's inclusion of a waiver of his collateral attack rights did not to vitiate his valid appellate waiver.

Grimes also argued that, even if the waiver was valid it should not be enforced because enforcement would constitute a miscarriage of justice. The Court noted that it is not enough that an issue is meritorious; to be a miscarriage of justice there must be unusual circumstances with the aim of avoiding manifest injustice. Grimes claimed that his sentence was unreasonable compared to the punishment others received for similar or worse conduct. He claimed that the district court did not satisfy the ยง3553(a) factor to avoid sentencing disparities with other defendants accused of similar crimes. The Court found that this case was not an unusual situation as it did not implicate fundamental rights or constitutional principles. His appeal was precisely the type the waiver was intended to foreclose. The Court enforced the waiver and affirmed the judgment of the District Court.

To read the full opinion, please visit http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/124523p.pdf

Panel (if known): Hardiman, Shwartz, and Scirica, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: November 13, 2013

Argument Location: Philadelphia

Date of Issued Opinion: January 7, 2014

Docket Number: No. 12-4523

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Cheri Snook

Counsel: Stephen R. Cerutti, II, Joseph J. Terz, for appellee; Peter Goldberger for appellant

Author of Opinion: Judge Hardiman

Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Prof. Susan L. DeJarnatt

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 01/08/2014 01:34 PM     3rd Circuit  

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