Monday, February 14, 2011

Pro se notice of appeal liberally construed

In US v. Aswa Mills, No. 10-1542 (Feb. 9, 2011) (click here), the Circuit ruled that a notice of appeal, especially if pro se, should be construed liberally and should be deemed adequate as long as it is "reasonably clear" under all the circumstances which judgment the party seeks to appeal.

Mills filed pro se notice of appeal shortly after his murder conviction, but gave the case number and trial date for an earlier assault case -- a case for which he had already fully served his sentence and had withdrawn an appeal. The Court reasoned that under the circumstances it should have been clear to the government that Mills intended to appeal from his murder conviction, not the expired assault conviction. In addition, the Court noted that the government could not show it was in any way prejudiced. "[A]s long as the judgment the party intends to appeal is fairly discernible, a notice of appeal will be deemed sufficient even though it references the wrong case number, or the wrong judgment date."

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