SCOTUS: Defense Lawyer Can't Refuse to File Appeal Even If Client Has Given up Appeal Rights

The client had plea agreements with "appeal waivers," but the Court said the lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to begin an appeal.

In Garza v. Idaho, the U.S. Supreme Court established that a lawyer provides ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to file an appeal that a client has requested even if the client has a plea agreement with an appeal waiver. (586 U.S. ___ (2019).)

In the Garza case, the defendant had signed two plea agreements, each of which had language saying that he “waive[d] his right to appeal.” After his plea and sentencing, he told his lawyer that he wanted to appeal. The lawyer never filed the appeal, and the deadline for doing so passed.

The Supreme Court explained that appeals are sometimes possible even after a defendant has signed an appeal waiver. It stated that it’s ineffective assistance of counsel for a lawyer to, through objectively poor representation, lose a chance to appeal that the defendant would have taken. The Court further explained that that rule is true even if the defendant has signed an appeal waiver.

For more on the case, see our article on conditional appeals and appealing after pleading guilty.

Effective date: February 27, 2019