In U.S. v. Manning, 14-1479 (7th Cir. June 9, 2014), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed the government's motion to dismiss an appeal due to an appeal-waiver provision contained in a criminal defendant's plea agreement. The government filed its motion before the parties filed their merits briefs. Judge Richard A. Posner, sitting as the motions judge, declined to address the government's motion. Instead, he ordered the merits panel to consider the government's motion, and in doing so, opined that "[t]he government’s filing of a separate motion, in advance of full briefing, to dismiss a criminal appeal as frivolous should be, though not forbidden, discouraged."
In declining to rule on the motion, Judge Posner noted that Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 27 authorizes the government to file a motion to dismiss a criminal appeal in advance of full briefing, "which makes perfectly good sense" when the basis of a motion is lack of jurisdiction. However, an appeal waiver does not necessarily deprive a reviewing court of jurisdiction because the defendant may be able to put forth a non-frivolous argument, such as the waiver not applying to a specific issue or that the defendant did not enter into the plea agreement knowingly and intelligently, among other reasons.
Judge Posner remarked that "the only benefit that I can imagine" to filing a motion to dismiss on grounds of appeal waiver was to accelerate the evaluation of the merits of the appeal. However, an appellant's counsel on appeal - who often times did not serve as trial counsel - is likely to seek and obtain an extension to respond to the government's motion. In such situations, a motion to dismiss before filing the merits briefs is unlikely to accelerate disposition of the appeal.
In closing, Judge Posner noted that the defendant's counsel suggested a "sensible compromise," i.e., that the government file a notice of intent to enforce an appeal waiver. This would give appellate counsel an early warning that the government seeks to enforce the waiver and "will have the same accelerating effect as a motion to dismiss, while requiring less work for both sides and preserving the briefing schedule."
Recommended Citation: Charlie Ingrassia, Judge Posner: In Criminal Appeal, Filing Motion to Dismiss Before Full Briefing "Discouraged", (July 26, 2014), The Brief, http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/07/judge-posner-in-criminal-appeal-filing.html.