Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
No. 10–1062. Argued January 9, 2012—Decided March 21, 2012
The Clean Water Act prohibits “the discharge of any pollutant by any person,” 33 U. S. C. §1311, without a permit, into “navigable waters,” §1344. Upon determining that a violation has occurred, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may either issue a compliance order or initiate a civil enforcement action. §1319(a)(3). The resulting civil penalty may not “exceed [$37,500] per day for each violation.” §1319(d). The Government contends that the amount doubles to $75,000 when the EPA prevails against a person who has been issued a compliance order but has failed to comply.
The Sacketts, petitioners here, received a compliance order from the EPA, which stated that their residential lot contained navigable waters and that their construction project violated the Act. The Sacketts sought declarative and injunctive relief in the Federal District Court, contending that the compliance order was “arbitrary [and] capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. §706(2)(A), and that it deprived them of due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court dismissed the claims for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Clean Water Act precluded pre-enforcement judicial review of compliance orders and that such preclusion did not violate due process.
Held: The Sacketts may bring a civil action under the APA to challenge the issuance of the EPA’s order. Pp. 4–10.
(a) The APA provides for judicial review of “final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court.” 5 U. S. C. §704. The compliance order here has all the hallmarks of APA finality. Through it, the EPA “determined” “rights or obligations,” Bennett v. Spear, 520 U. S. 154, requiring the Sacketts to restore their property according to an agency-approved plan and to give the EPA access. Also, “legal consequences . . . flow” from the order, ibid., which, according to the Government’s litigating position, exposes the Sacketts to double penalties in future enforcement proceedings. The order also severely limits their ability to obtain a permit for their fill from the Army Corps of Engineers, see 33 U. S. C. §1344; 33 CFR §326.3(e)(1)(iv). Further, the order’s issuance marks the “consummation” of the agency’s decisionmaking process, Bennett, supra, at 178, for the EPA’s findings in the compliance order were not subject to further agency review. The Sacketts also had “no other adequate remedy in a court,” 5 U. S. C. §704. A civil action brought by the EPA under 33 U. S. C. §1319 ordinarily provides judicial review in such cases, but the Sacketts cannot initiate that process. And each day they wait, they accrue additional potential liability. Applying to the Corps of Engineers for a permit and then filing suit under the APA if that permit is denied also does not provide an adequate remedy for the EPA’s action. Pp. 4–6.
(b) The Clean Water Act is not a statute that “preclude[s] judicial review” under the APA, 5 U. S. C. §701(a)(1). The APA creates a “presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action.” Block v. Community Nutrition Institute, 467 U. S. 340. While this presumption “may be overcome by inferences of intent drawn from the statutory scheme as a whole,” ibid., the Government’s arguments do not support an inference that the Clean Water Act’s statutory scheme precludes APA review. Pp. 7–10.
622 F. 3d 1139, reversed and remanded.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Ginsburg, J., and Alito, J., filed concurring opinions.
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit
No. 10–209. Argued October 31, 2011 —Decided March 21, 2012
Respondent was charged under Michigan law with assault with intent to murder and three other offenses. The prosecution offered to dismiss two of the charges and to recommend a 51-to-85-month sentence on the other two, in exchange for a guilty plea. In a communication with the court, respondent admitted his guilt and expressed a willingness to accept the offer. But he rejected the offer, allegedly after his attorney convinced him that the prosecution would be unable to establish intent to murder because the victim had been shot below the waist. At trial, respondent was convicted on all counts and received a mandatory minimum 185-to-360-month sentence. In a subsequent hearing, the state trial court rejected respondent’s claim that his attorney’s advice to reject the plea constituted ineffective assistance. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the ineffective-assistance claim on the ground that respondent knowingly and intelligently turned down the plea offer and chose to go to trial. Respondent renewed his claim in federal habeas. Finding that the state appellate court had unreasonably applied the constitutional effective-assistance standards laid out in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668, and Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U. S. 52, the District Court granted a conditional writ and ordered specific performance of the original plea offer. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Applying Strickland, it found that counsel had provided deficient performance by advising respondent of an incorrect legal rule, and that respondent suffered prejudice because he lost the opportunity to take the more favorable sentence offered in the plea.
1. Where counsel’s ineffective advice led to an offer’s rejection, and where the prejudice alleged is having to stand trial, a defendant must show that but for the ineffective advice, there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer’s terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed. Pp. 3–11.
(a) Because the parties agree that counsel’s performance was deficient, the only question is how to apply Strickland’s prejudice test where ineffective assistance results in a rejection of the plea offer and the defendant is convicted at the ensuing trial. Pp. 3–4.
(b) In that context, the Strickland prejudice test requires a defendant to show a reasonable possibility that the outcome of the plea process would have been different with competent advice. The Sixth Circuit and other federal appellate courts have agreed with the Strickland prejudice test for rejected pleas adopted here by this Court. Petitioner and the Solicitor General propose a narrow view—that Strickland prejudice cannot arise from plea bargaining if the defendant is later convicted at a fair trial—but their reasoning is unpersuasive. First, they claim that the Sixth Amendment’s sole purpose is to protect the right to a fair trial, but the Amendment actually requires effective assistance at critical stages of a criminal proceeding, including pretrial stages. This is consistent with the right to effective assistance on appeal, see, e.g., Halbert v. Michigan, 545 U. S. 605, and the right to counsel during sentencing, see, e.g., Glover v. United States, 531 U. S. 198–204. This Court has not followed a rigid rule that an otherwise fair trial remedies errors not occurring at trial, but has instead inquired whether the trial cured the particular error at issue. See, e.g., Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U. S. 254. Second, this Court has previously rejected petitioner’s argument that Lockhart v. Fretwell, 506 U. S. 364, modified Strickland and does so again here. Fretwell and Nix v. Whiteside, 475 U. S. 157, demonstrate that “it would be unjust to characterize the likelihood of a different outcome as legitimate ‘prejudice,’ ” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S. 362–392, where defendants would receive a windfall as a result of the application of an incorrect legal principle or a defense strategy outside the law. Here, however, respondent seeks relief from counsel’s failure to meet a valid legal standard. Third, petitioner seeks to preserve the conviction by arguing that the Sixth Amendment’s purpose is to ensure a conviction’s reliability, but this argument fails to comprehend the full scope of the Sixth Amendment and is refuted by precedent. Here, the question is the fairness or reliability not of the trial but of the processes that preceded it, which caused respondent to lose benefits he would have received but for counsel’s ineffective assistance. Furthermore, a reliable trial may not foreclose relief when counsel has failed to assert rights that may have altered the outcome. See Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U. S. 365. Petitioner’s position that a fair trial wipes clean ineffective assistance during plea bargaining also ignores the reality that criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials. See Missouri v. Frye, ante, at ___. Pp. 4–11.
2. Where a defendant shows ineffective assistance has caused the rejection of a plea leading to a more severe sentence at trial, the remedy must “neutralize the taint” of a constitutional violation, United States v. Morrison, 449 U. S. 361, but must not grant a windfall to the defendant or needlessly squander the resources the State properly invested in the criminal prosecution, see United States v. Mechanik, 475 U. S. 66. If the sole advantage is that the defendant would have received a lesser sentence under the plea, the court should have an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the defendant would have accepted the plea. If so, the court may exercise discretion in determining whether the defendant should receive the term offered in the plea, the sentence received at trial, or something in between. However, resentencing based on the conviction at trial may not suffice, e.g., where the offered guilty plea was for less serious counts than the ones for which a defendant was convicted after trial, or where a mandatory sentence confines a judge’s sentencing discretion. In these circumstances, the proper remedy may be to require the prosecution to reoffer the plea. The judge can then exercise discretion in deciding whether to vacate the conviction from trial and accept the plea, or leave the conviction undisturbed. In either situation, a court must weigh various factors. Here, it suffices to give two relevant considerations. First, a court may take account of a defendant’s earlier expressed willingness, or unwillingness, to accept responsibility for his or her actions. Second, it is not necessary here to decide as a constitutional rule that a judge is required to disregard any information concerning the crime discovered after the plea offer was made. Petitioner argues that implementing a remedy will open the floodgates to litigation by defendants seeking to unsettle their convictions, but in the 30 years that courts have recognized such claims, there has been no indication that the system is overwhelmed or that defendants are receiving windfalls as a result of strategically timed Strickland claims. In addition, the prosecution and trial courts may adopt measures to help ensure against meritless claims. See Frye, ante, at ___. Pp. 11–14.
3. This case arises under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), but because the Michigan Court of Appeals’ analysis of respondent’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim was contrary to clearly established federal law, AEDPA presents no bar to relief. Respondent has satisfied Strickland’s two-part test. The parties concede the fact of deficient performance. And respondent has shown that but for that performance there is a reasonable probability he and the trial court would have accepted the guilty plea. In addition, as a result of not accepting the plea and being convicted at trial, he received a minimum sentence 3½ times greater than he would have received under the plea. As a remedy, the District Court ordered specific performance of the plea agreement, but the correct remedy is to order the State to reoffer the plea. If respondent accepts the offer, the state trial court can exercise its discretion in determining whether to vacate respondent’s convictions and resentence pursuant to the plea agreement, to vacate only some of the convictions and resentence accordingly, or to leave the conviction and sentence resulting from the trial undisturbed. Pp. 14–16.
376 Fed. Appx. 563, vacated and remanded.
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined, and in which Roberts, C. J., joined as to all but Part IV. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Certiorari To The Court Of Appeals Of Missouri, Western District
No. 10–444. Argued October 31, 2011 —Decided March 21, 2012
Respondent Frye was charged with driving with a revoked license. Because he had been convicted of the same offense three times before, he was charged, under Missouri law, with a felony carrying a maximum 4-year prison term. The prosecutor sent Frye’s counsel a letter, offering two possible plea bargains, including an offer to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and to recommend, with a guilty plea, a 90-day sentence. Counsel did not convey the offers to Frye, and they expired. Less than a week before Frye’s preliminary hearing, he was again arrested for driving with a revoked license. He subsequently pleaded guilty with no underlying plea agreement and was sentenced to three years in prison. Seeking postconviction relief in state court, he alleged his counsel’s failure to inform him of the earlier plea offers denied him the effective assistance of counsel, and he testified that he would have pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor had he known of the offer. The court denied his motion, but the Missouri appellate court reversed, holding that Frye met both of the requirements for showing a Sixth Amendment violation under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668. Specifically, the court found that defense counsel had been ineffective in not communicating the plea offers to Frye and concluded that Frye had shown that counsel’s deficient performance caused him prejudice because he pleaded guilty to a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
1. The Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel extends to the consideration of plea offers that lapse or are rejected. That right applies to “all ‘critical’ stages of the criminal proceedings.” Montejo v. Louisiana, 556 U. S. 778. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U. S. 52, established that Strickland’s two-part test governs ineffective-assistance claims in the plea bargain context. There, the defendant had alleged that his counsel had given him inadequate advice about his plea, but he failed to show that he would have proceeded to trial had he received the proper advice. 474 U. S., at 60. In Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U. S. ___, where a plea offer was set aside because counsel had misinformed the defendant of its immigration consequences, this Court made clear that “the negotiation of a plea bargain is a critical” stage for ineffective-assistance purposes, id., at ___, and rejected the argument made by the State in this case that a knowing and voluntary plea supersedes defense counsel’s errors. The State attempts to distinguish Hill and Padilla from the instant case. It notes that Hill and Padilla concerned whether there was ineffective assistance leading to acceptance of a plea offer, a process involving a formal court appearance with the defendant and all counsel present, while no formal court proceedings are involved when a plea offer has lapsed or been rejected; and it insists that there is no right to receive a plea offer in any event. Thus, the State contends, it is unfair to subject it to the consequences of defense counsel’s inadequacies when the opportunities for a full and fair trial, or for a later guilty plea albeit on less favorable terms, are preserved. While these contentions are neither illogical nor without some persuasive force, they do not suffice to overcome the simple reality that 97 percent of federal convictions and 94 percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas. Plea bargains have become so central to today’s criminal justice system that defense counsel must meet responsibilities in the plea bargain process to render the adequate assistance of counsel that the Sixth Amendment requires at critical stages of the criminal process. Pp. 3–8.
2. As a general rule, defense counsel has the duty to communicate formal prosecution offers to accept a plea on terms and conditions that may be favorable to the accused. Any exceptions to this rule need not be addressed here, for the offer was a formal one with a fixed expiration date. Standards for prompt communication and consultation recommended by the American Bar Association and adopted by numerous state and federal courts, though not determinative, serve as important guides. The prosecution and trial courts may adopt measures to help ensure against late, frivolous, or fabricated claims. First, a formal offer’s terms and processing can be documented. Second, States may require that all offers be in writing. Third, formal offers can be made part of the record at any subsequent plea proceeding or before trial to ensure that a defendant has been fully advised before the later proceedings commence. Here, as the result of counsel’s deficient performance, the offers lapsed. Under Strickland, the question then becomes what, if any, prejudice resulted from the breach of duty. Pp. 8–11.
3. To show prejudice where a plea offer has lapsed or been rejected because of counsel’s deficient performance, defendants must demonstrate a reasonable probability both that they would have accepted the more favorable plea offer had they been afforded effective assistance of counsel and that the plea would have been entered without the prosecution’s canceling it or the trial court’s refusing to accept it, if they had the authority to exercise that discretion under state law. This application of Strickland to uncommunicated, lapsed pleas does not alter Hill’s standard, which requires a defendant complaining that ineffective assistance led him to accept a plea offer instead of going to trial to show “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” 474 U. S., at 59. Hill correctly applies in the context in which it arose, but it does not provide the sole means for demonstrating prejudice arising from counsel’s deficient performance during plea negotiations. Because Frye argues that with effective assistance he would have accepted an earlier plea offer as opposed to entering an open plea, Strickland’s inquiry into whether “the result of the proceeding would have been different,” 466 U. S., at 694, requires looking not at whether the defendant would have proceeded to trial but at whether he would have accepted the earlier plea offer. He must also show that, if the prosecution had the discretion to cancel the plea agreement or the trial court had the discretion to refuse to accept it, there is a reasonable probability neither the prosecution nor the trial court would have prevented the offer from being accepted or implemented. This further showing is particularly important because a defendant has no right to be offered a plea, see Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U. S. 545, nor a federal right that the judge accept it, Santobello v. New York, 404 U. S. 257. Missouri, among other States, appears to give the prosecution some discretion to cancel a plea agreement; and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, some state rules, including Missouri’s, and this Court’s precedents give trial courts some leeway to accept or reject plea agreements. Pp. 11–13.
4. Applying these standards here, the Missouri court correctly concluded that counsel’s failure to inform Frye of the written plea offer before it expired fell below an objective reasonableness standard, but it failed to require Frye to show that the plea offer would have been adhered to by the prosecution and accepted by the trial court. These matters should be addressed by the Missouri appellate court in the first instance. Given that Frye’s new offense for driving without a license occurred a week before his preliminary hearing, there is reason to doubt that the prosecution would have adhered to the agreement or that the trial court would have accepted it unless they were required by state law to do so. Pp. 13–15.
311 S. W. 3d 350, vacated and remanded.
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined.