U.S. Supreme Court
Criminal Procedure — plea agreements — harmless error
Under Rule 11(h), vacatur of the plea is not in order if the record shows no prejudice to Davila’s decision to plead guilty.
Here, the Magistrate Judge plainly violated Rule 11(c)(1) by exhorting Davila to plead guilty. Davila contends that automatic vacatur, while inappropriate for most Rule 11 violations, should attend conduct banned by Rule 11(c)(1). He distinguishes plea-colloquy omissions, i.e., errors of the kind involved in Vonn and Dominguez Benitez, from pre-plea exhortations to admit guilt. The former come into play after a defendant has decided to plead guilty, the latter, before a defendant has decided to plead guilty or to stand trial. Nothing in Rule 11’s text, however, indicates that the ban on judicial involvement in plea discussions, if dishonored, demands automatic vacatur without regard to case-specific circumstances. Nor does the Advisory Committee commentary single out any Rule 11 instruction as more basic than others. And Rule 11(h), specifically designed to stop automatic vacaturs, calls for across-the-board application of the harmless-error prescription (or, absent prompt objection, the plain-error rule).
664 F. 3d 1355, vacated and remanded.
Ginsburg, J.; Scalia, J., concurring.