Brief filed: 01/29/2018
Hughes v. United States
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 17-155
Decision below 849 F.3d 1008 (11th Cir. Feb. 27, 2017)
The Freeman concurrence leads to unpredictable results because parties rely on the Sentencing Guidelines but do not draft plea agreements with retroactive resentencing in mind. The Sentencing Guidelines are key to all pleas because prosecutors must make them central to their decisions. Defendants use their limited plea leverage to address pressing, current issues. Defendants almost universally plead guilty. Defendants who plead prioritize current issues over uncertain future eventualities like retroactive Sentencing Guidelines. Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreements differ by jurisdiction. Variations in plea agreements lead to different resentencing outcomes for similarly-situated defendants. The Freeman concurrence leads to inequitable results because eligibility for resentencing does not necessarily reflect the parties' actual intent. The Freeman concurrence leads to inconsistent results for defendants with similar plea agreements because there is confusion about the level of specificity required. Freeman should be modified to provide a clear, administrable rule. Justices have recognized the importance of clear, administrable rules rather than creating 4-1-4 split decisions. The proper rule is for all Rule 11(c)(1)(C) defendants to be resentenced when a guidelines range implicated by their plea is amended retroactively. Congress or the United States Sentencing Commission can always revise this rule if desired.
Nathaniel P. Garrett, Jones Day, San Francisco, CA; Kenton J. Skarin, Jones Day, Chicago, IL; David M. Porter, NACDL, Washington, DC.