Law School Case Brief
Garza v. Idaho - 139 S. Ct. 738 (2019)
When an attorney’s deficient performance costs a defendant an appeal that the defendant would have otherwise pursued, prejudice to the defendant should be presumed with no further showing from the defendant of the merits of his underlying claims.
Petitioner Gilberto Garza, Jr., signed two plea agreements, each arising from state criminal charges and each containing a clause stating that Garza waived his right to appeal. Shortly after sentencing, Garza told his trial counsel that he wished to appeal. Instead of filing a notice of appeal, counsel informed Garza that an appeal would be “problematic” given Garza's appeal waiver. After the time period for Garza to preserve an appeal lapsed, he sought state postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file a notice of appeal despite his repeated requests. The Idaho trial court denied relief, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. Also affirming, the Idaho Supreme Court held that Garza could not show the requisite deficient performance by counsel and resulting prejudice. In doing so, the court concluded that the presumption of prejudice recognized in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U. S. 470, 120 S. Ct. 1029, 145 L. Ed. 2d 985, when trial counsel failed to file an appeal as instructed would not apply when the defendant has agreed to an appeal waiver. The United States Supreme Court granted Garza's petition for certiorari review.
Would the presumption of prejudice, as recognized in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, apply when the defendant has agreed to an appeal waiver?
The United States Supreme Court held that the presumption of prejudice recognized in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470, 120 S. Ct. 1029, 145 L. Ed. 2d 985 (2000), applied regardless of whether a defendant had signed an appeal waiver. This ruling followed squarely from Flores-Ortega and from the fact that even the broadest appeal waiver did not deprive a defendant of all appellate claims. The Court further held that Garza’s attorney rendered deficient performance by not filing a notice of appeal in light of Garza's clear requests. Given the possibility that a defendant will end up raising claims beyond an appeal waiver's scope, simply filing a notice of appeal did not necessarily breach a plea agreement. Accordingly, prejudice was presumed with no further showing from Garza of the merits of his underlying claims.
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