Tenth Circuit: Problem with Spanish language pretrial materials

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Aug 16 14:46:48 UTC 2007

August 12, 2007
Tenth Circuit finds undue judicial involvement in plea deal
I've just seen an interesting opinion released late Friday by the
Tenth Circuit concerning plea practices.  Here is the opening
paragraph of US v. Cano-Varela, No. 06-8020 (8th Cir. Aug. 10, 2007)
(available here):

Marco Antonio Cano-Varela entered a pretrial status conference
disappointed with the plea deal his lawyer had helped negotiate and
displeased with his lawyer's provision of Spanish-language discovery
materials.  He intended to request a change of counsel so that he
could go to trial on drug charges. During the conference, however, the
district court informed Mr. Cano- Varela that he would potentially
face a vastly longer sentence if he went to trial and was convicted
than if he pleaded guilty.  Two weeks later, Mr. Cano-Varela accepted
the government's plea deal.  We hold that the district court violated
Rule 11(c)(1)(C)'s prohibition against judicial participation in plea
negotiations by comparing, before Mr. Cano-Varela and the government
had reached a plea agreement, the potential penal consequences of
pleading guilty versus going to trial. We therefore vacate Mr.
Cano-Varela's guilty plea and sentence.

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