Monday, April 30, 2007

Third Circuit Retains Jurisdiction Even Where Defendant Signs Waiver of Right to Appeal

In United States v. Gwinnett, Case No. 06-1766 (3d Cir. April 26, 2007), the Third Circuit held that it "retains subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal by a defendant who had signed an appellate waiver." It emphasized that it "will not exercise that jurisdiction to review the merits" of an appeal where the defendant "knowingly and voluntarily waived her right to appeal unless the result would work a miscarriage of justice," because waivers of right to appeal are valid and enforceable. The Court then found that Ms. Gwinnett’s waiver of her appellate rights was knowing and voluntary. It consequently declined to exercise its jurisdiction and affirmed the district court's decision.

This case resolves the confusion created by the Court’s decision in United States v. Khattak, 273 F.3d 557 (3d Cir. 2001). In Khattak, the Court stated, "we have no jurisdiction to consider the merits of [Khattak’s] appeal . . .." The Third Circuit noted that this was confusing because of its inconsistency with the Court's behavior: "[W]e did not dismiss the appeal [in Khattak], as we do when we conclude we have no jurisdiction. Instead, we affirmed the judgment of the district court."

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