New opinion: court affirms 2255 denial

In the court’s first published opinion of 2015, CA3 affirmed denial of relief in a 28 USC 2255 appeal. The claim at issue is ineffective assistance of counsel, which comes up a lot in post-conviction cases, but the facts are quirky enough that I don’t see this case having much impact.

Davenport pled guilty. A paragraph in his plea agreement listed points that the government and the defendant agreed to both recommend at sentencing. As originally drafted, one of those points was that the defendant possessed a gun, but during plea negotiations the parties struck the gun-possession stipulation. At sentencing, Davenport argued he did not possess a gun, and in response the government argued that he did. In his 2255, Davenport argued that counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the government breached the plea agreement, essentially arguing that striking the stipulation that he did possess a gun was tantamount to stipulating that he did not possess a gun.

The district court denied relief, and today CA3 affirmed, holding that the government did not breach the plea agreement so counsel was not ineffective for arguing otherwise. The court did note that it gives the benefit of any doubt about the terms of a plea agreement to the defendant, and that the government must adhere strictly to its terms. Logic nerds will thrill to see the court cite “the logical fallacy of the inverse–the incorrect assumption that if P implies Q, then not-P implies not-Q.”

The case is US v. Davenport. Opinion by Hardiman, joined by Fisher and Jordan. Arguing counsel were AUSA Christian Fisanick for the government and K&L Gates partner Nicholas Ranjan for the petitioner. The court acknowledged Ranjan’s “excellent advocacy” as pro bono counsel.