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Plea Agreements — Judicial Participation — Conclusive Presumption of Involuntariness

State v. Corey D. Williams, 2003 WI App 116
For Williams: Michael J. Edmonds

Issue/Holding:

¶1.… We conclude that judicial participation in the bargaining process that precedes a defendant’s plea raises a conclusive presumption that the plea was involuntary. Therefore, we adopt a bright-line rule barring any form of judicial participation in plea negotiations before a plea agreement has been reached. Because it is undisputed that the trial judge participated in the negotiations that led up to Williams’s pleas, Williams is entitled to withdraw his pleas. Accordingly, we reverse the order denying relief; we vacate the judgment of conviction for both offenses; and remand for further proceedings on all charges originally filed against Williams. On remand, we order that the case be assigned to a different judge.

State v. Zuniga, 2002 WI App 233, 257 Wis. 2d 625, 652 N.W.2d 423, distinguished, on the theory that judicial suggestion in that case to modify plea bargain came after Zuniga had entered his plea, ¶19. Also see U.S. v. Bradley, 4th Cir No. 02-4390, 7/25/06 (re: policy reasons for bar on judicial participation); U.S. v. Baker, DC Cir No. 06-3115, 6/5/07 (bar on judicial participation absolute; judge’s allusion to disposition imposed in another case held coercive).

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