Friday, July 31, 2015

US v. Carter, No. 13-50164 (7-28-15)(Melloy with Bybee and Ikuta).  A defendant, changing his plea, is taking medication. What is the extent of the inquiry the court needs to make under Fed R Crim P. 11?  The 9th, affirming the voluntariness of the plea, states that "if a district court learns that a defendant is under the influence of some medication, it has a duty to determine, at a minimum, what type of drug the defendant has taken and whether the drug is affecting the defendant's mental state."  P. 16.  In determining the mental state of defendants, the courts "may rely on the defendants' answers to their inquiries as well as their observations of defendants during the hearing." Id.  A court can consider medical history, and history of mental illness.  A court can, but is not required, to look at the dosage of the drugs and the specific names. 

Here, the defendant was representing himself.  He had entered a plea (getting rid of a mandatory minimum for drug sales) and was sentences, all without objection.  He appealed after sentencing, arguing that his plea was involuntary.  The 9th found it was not.  In its opinion, the 9th goes through the various extents of inquiries other circuits have required.  It settled on the test above, which is that the court has to ask about drugs, and the impact and effect on the defendant's mental state.  The court has to inquire about the clarity of mental reasoning but the court does not necessarily have to hold a hearing, nor inquire specifically into the extent drugs or dosages.  The inquiry here was satisfied.

This case is a good starting point in any voluntariness Rule 11 issue involving medication.

Kudos to Michael Tanaka, Deputy FPD in California central (Los Angeles) for a difficult case and getting a test that clarifies the effect of medication on the defendant.


Orthel v. Yates, No. 12-17165 (7-28-15)(Hawkins with N. Smith and Nguyen).The 9th affirmed the dismissal of a petition as untimely.  The district court did not err in finding that the petitioner had sufficient mental competence to understand that he needed to timely file a petition and to take steps to do so.  The petitioner did not establish the exceptional circumstances necessary to toll the running of AEDPA's statute of limitations, especially given the span of time.  The district court did not have to hold an evidentiary hearing.  There has to be a good faith basis for relief, and the records here did not support it.


Roninson v. Lewis, No. 14-15125 (7-28-15)(Schroeder, Ikuta and Seabright, D.J.)  Well, it finally happened.  The 9th certified a question to the California Supreme Court asking the state supreme court to resolve a long standing question: when is a state prisoner's petition for state post-conviction relief timely filed in a California court?  Here, there is no allegation of "good cause" for the 66 day delay between the denial of petition by the state trial court and the filing of the petition in the California  Court of Appeals.  The federal courts have struggled over what constitutes "timeliness."  This certifying question, in a non-capital case, will resolve this issue.


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