The Cautionary Instruction: Duquesne Law to examine plea bargaining

Friday, 22 February 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Matt Mangino

20130222 duquesnelawlogo 150The plea bargain, however unpopular or unseemly, plays a central role in the administration of justice. Next week, Duquesne University School of Law will host a national symposium on plea bargaining in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye

The two 5-4 decisions authored by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy recognize that criminal defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations, including when they miss out on, or reject, plea bargains because of bad legal advice.

“Last term, the Supreme Court recognized that a defendant has not only a right to a lawyer during plea bargaining but a competent lawyer. This recognition was vitally important in a world in which 95% of all convictions are the result of guilty pleas,” said Wesley M. Oliver, symposium organizer and Associate Professor and Criminal Justice Program Director at Duquesne.

The symposium, Plea Bargaining after Lafler and Frye, will pull together scholars and practitioners to explore what advocacy means in a system where effective plea bargaining has been elevated to a constitutionally protected right.

As courts wrestle with the implications of Lafler and Frye -- jurists have to determine what it means to be an effective negotiator and how to create a remedy for defendants who are denied that right.

The symposium will kick-off on next Thursday evening with a keynote address by The Honorable W. Louis Sands of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Sands, a former state and federal prosecutor, was raised in poverty in rural Middle Georgia. In 1991, he became the first African-American appointed to the Superior Court of the Macon Judicial Circuit, where he served until his appointment to the United States District Court.

Friday’s session will begin with an address by the Honorable Frank H. Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He has been a judge on the court since 1985 and has been Chief Judge since 2006.

Easterbrook is one of the most cited appellate judges in America. In 1974, he joined the solicitor general's office, where he served first as assistant to the solicitor general and later as deputy solicitor general of the United States. He returned to University of Chicago Law School in 1979, until his appointment to the federal bench.

Friday’s session will also consist of a series of panel discussions, each hosted by a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer or judge, focusing on the application and implementation of Lafler and Frye in state and federal courts.

The morning panels begin with Changes in the Plea Process; followed by Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Criminal Negotiator, featuring Stephanos Bibas of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The afternoon panels include, The Role of Plea Bargaining in the Criminal Justice System; followed by Is Plea Bargaining Legitimate? featuring Gabriel Chin of the University of California-Davis School of Law; and closing with Remedies for Petitioners, featuring Professor Oliver.

To register for Plea Bargaining after Lafler and Frye click here.


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. He is a featured columnist for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly and a regular contributor to the Youngstown Vindicator. You can read his musings on crime and punishment at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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