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Supreme Court: Garza v. Idaho: Preserving the Client’s Choice to Appeal

By Craig Durham, Jonah Horwitz, Brian McComas, and Lauren M. Weinstein

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The decision to appeal a conviction always lies with the client. But what is a defense attorney to do when the client pleads guilty, signs an appeal waiver, and then wishes to appeal after sentencing? The U.S. Supreme Court recently provided the answer in Garza v. Idaho1: Obey the client and file a notice of appeal.

Gilberto Garza, Jr. signed two plea agreements containing waivers of his rights to appeal and was sentenced according to the terms of those agreements.2 After sentencing, however, he wanted to appeal and told his attorney as much. Garza’s trial counsel responded that “‘an appeal was problematic because he waived his right to appeal in his Rule 11 agreements.’”3 He disregarded Garza’s instructions and did not file a notice of appeal, forfeiting Garza’s opportunity for direct appellate review.4 

Persisting, Garza filed a petition for postconviction relief, arguing that his attorney was ineffective for failing to notice his appeal.5 The lower courts denied the petition.6 The Ida

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