SL&P describes a situation brewing in the First. The US Attorney and several prosecutors don’t like the fact that they can’t send people to jail for a long time under the guidelines or the ACCA because often state court judges will vacate some criminal convictions. So some drug-offenders won’t have to spend 20 years in jail.
To me, it is quite silly. If the feds insist that they can use state conviction to “prove” facts, then they have to deal with the fact that states can and will vacate the convictions (subject, of course, to appeals by prosecutors) for reasons that the feds have no control over. They need to get used to it. n a profoundly silly opinion (brought out by a commentator) at SL&P, (U.S. v. Marsh), Judge Saylor wrote:
Yet the process is nonetheless deeply troubling.
I am sorry that he is “troubled.” A judgeship is not for the easily troubled. Yet somehow most judges are not that troubled by sending people to jail for life, and hardly ever sanctioned inappropriate prosecutorial comments.
A felony conviction is, and ought to be, a profoundly significant event.
Maybe in his ideal world. But apparently many states disagree with him, and hand them out like candy. Many prosecutors charge a high amount of things as felonies. So, does it come as any surprise that some states provide for easy vacation of certain criminal convictions on the grounds that the defendant didn’t know what he was pleading to, or was unaware of the collateral consequences.
Also, there is absolutely no federal constitutional requirement requiring that prosecutors be treated fairly! Yes, the state can actually be “denied due process” and have its precious convictions taken away.
Let me make this perfectly clear: A state is free to conclude that a lack of knowledge of collateral consequences renders a guilty plea invalid. There is no constitutional requirement that states not do this.
Somehow Judge Saylor seeks to export the high standard for vacating a guilty plea under federal law to the states. There is no basis for doing this.
Its importance goes well beyond its immediate consequences, such as punishment; sentencing decisions in every jurisdiction in the
United States are driven in great measure by the criminal history of the defendant.
Sure, and this might be a constitutional problem. Judge Saylor doesn’t even cite the controversial aspects of this problem.
Felony convictions should neither be imposed nor overturned lightly, and under no circumstances should they be treated like a
Las Vegas marriage, to be annulled when they become burdensome or inconvenient.
While the Sixth Amendment arguably says the First part, Judge Saylor made up the Second part about vacating felony convictions. While they shouldn’t be like “Las Vegas Marriages” they can be like “Mexican Divorces.” Moreover, in fact, I am told that governors and the president can pardon people for any reason or no reason at all!
Vacating long-standing convictions for strategic purposes also serves to erode public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Lots of things erode public confidence in criminal justice systems. Personally, my confidence is eroded by low CJA rates. I am also told that the government’s handling of Jose Padilla eroded some confidence in the DOJ. Also, Monica Goodling and politically-motivated prosecutions did, too. But, Saylor is more concerned with making up new law and telling other jurisdictions to follow it.
If the process is perceived to be readily manipulable, or even dishonest, the damage to that confidence is likely to be substantial indeed.
Then let the people of