United States v Vanderwerff

Vanderwerff’s first plea agreement was rejected by the district court because it contained an appellate waiver. He pled guilty under a different agreement which exposed him to more prison time. The government joined Vanderwerff in arguing the rejection of the first agreement was improper and an amicus appointed by the court also greed it was improper. The panel, with one judge concurring separately, reversed and remanded. It held that the district court badly misunderstood the United states Supreme Court cases it relied on as one case was about ineffective assistance of counsel not the role of district court judges in plea bargaining and the other eliminated mandatory guidelines and did not even mention appellate waivers. It also held the district court’s reading of 18 USC 3553(a) was wrong as it applies to a sentence and an appellate waiver is not a sentence. The panel also held that the district courts disapproval of plea bargaining was no justification for rejecting the appellate waiver here as pela bargaining has been approved by the United States Supreme Court and appellate waivers are a favored part of the process. The concurrence argued that guideline sentences are almost never reversed and most appellate waivers retained appellate review for sentences outside the guidelines.