LOCATION: Denton County District Court
DOCKET NO.: 98-1441
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 528 US 470 (2000)
ARGUED: Nov 01, 1999
DECIDED: Feb 23, 2000
Edward C. DuMont - Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court, supporting the petitioner
Paul E. O'Connor - Sacramento, California argued the cause for the petitioner
Quin Denvir - Sacramento, California, argued the cause for the respondent
Facts of the case
Lucio Flores-Ortega, who does not speak English fluently, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. At his sentencing, the trial judge advised him that he had 60 days to file an appeal. His counsel, a public defender, did not file a notice of appeal in the period set by the court even though her file contained the words "bring appeal papers." Flores-Ortega's subsequent attempt to file such notice was rejected as untimely. Flores-Ortega's efforts to secure state habeas corpus relief were unsuccessful. Represented by a federal defender, Flores-Ortega then filed a federal habeas corpus petition, alleging constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel based his counsel's failure to file the notice after promising to do so. The District Court denied relief. In reversing, the Court of Appeals found that Flores-Ortega was entitled to relief because, under its precedent, a habeas petitioner need only show that his counsel's failure to file a notice of appeal was without the petitioner's consent.
Does trial counsel have a duty to file a notice of appeal following a guilty plea if the defendant has not requested so, but has been informed of his appeal rights?
Media for Roe v. Flores-OrtegaAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 01, 1999 in Roe v. Flores-Ortega
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 23, 2000 in Roe v. Flores-Ortega
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 98-1441, Roe versus Flores-Ortega will be announced by Justice O’Connor.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
This case comes on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The respondent pleaded guilty to murder.
At sentencing, the Trial Judge told him he had 60-days in which to file notice of appeal.
No notice of appeal was filed within the 60-days.
About four months after the sentencing, the respondent tried to file a notice of appeal, but it was rejected as untimely.
After exhausting his State remedies, the respondent filed a federal petition for habeas corpus, alleging constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel, based on the counsel's failure to file a notice of appeal.
The District Court denied relief.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the respondent was entitled a relief because under its precedent, a habeas petitioner need only show that the counsel’s failure to appeal was without the client’s consent.
In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we vacate the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remand this case for further proceedings.
We hold that our case of Strickland versus Washington provides the proper framework for evaluating a claim, that counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to file a notice of appeal.
The defendant must show that counsel’s performance was objectively unreasonable.
it is well settled that counsel performs deficiently by disregarding a defendant’s specific instructions either to file or not file a notice of appeal.
In those cases where the defendant does not instruct counsel about filing an appeal, the relevant question is whether counsel's failure to consult with the defendant about the advantages and disadvantages of taking an appeal and to make a reasonable effort to find out the defendant’s wishes, whether that was at self deficient.
The better practice, of course, is for counsel routinely to consult with the defendant regarding the possibility and advisability of appealing.
We cannot say however, as a constitutional matter that in every case, counsel’s failure to consult is necessarily unreasonable and therefore deficient; instead, we hold that counsel has a constitutionally imposed duty to consult with the defendant about an appeal, when either a rational defendant would want to appeal for example because there are nonfrivolous grounds for appeal, or that this particular defendant demonstrated to counsel that he wanted an appeal.
Now the second part, if counsel’s performance is deficient under that standard, the second part of the Strickland test asks whether the defendant can show prejudice from the failure of counsel to file the appeal, and in that regard, we hold that the defendant has to demonstrate a reasonable probability that but for the counsel's defendant failure to consult with him about an appeal, that he would have filed a timely appeal.
Now the question whether the defendant has made the requisite showing, will turn on the facts of the particular case; and evidence that there were nonfrivolous grounds for appeal, or that the defendant promptly told the lawyer of his wish to appeal will be relevant.
Now the court below, undertook neither part of that Strickland inquiry that we have described, and the findings we have before us don’t provide us with enough information to determine whether the attorney here rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance.
Accordingly, we remand the case to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.
Justice Breyer has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Souter has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsburg have joined, and Justice Ginsburg has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.