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April 23, 2007

Interesting Eighth Circuit en banc ruling on enforcing a plea agreement

The Eighth Circuit today has produced an interesting set of opinions concerning when a defendant can enforce a plea agreement.  The en banc opinions in US v. Norris, No. 04-2074 (8th Cir. Apr. 23, 2007) (available here) say a lot about the often under-explored underbelly of plea agreements.  Here is the conclusion of the plurality opinion of the court:

We hold that a defendant generally has no right to specific performance of a plea agreement where the Government withdraws from the agreement before the defendant's associated guilty plea is accepted by the district court.  We recognize exceptions to the general rule to the extent that the plea agreement specifically contemplates pre-plea performance or if the defendant shows that the Government has taken unfair advantage of its withdrawal from the agreement.  Because Norris meets neither exception, we vacate the district court's order granting Norris's motion for specific performance of the plea agreement and dismissing the superseding indictment.  We remand for further proceedings consistent with this judgment.

April 23, 2007 at 01:04 PM | Permalink


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