Tag Archives: united states v. davila

Can Federal Judges Play Any Role in Plea Negotiations? The Rules Say “No”, But What Should the Remedy Be If the Rule is Broken?

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1) is clear. It states that federal judges “must not participate” in plea discussions between a defendant and the United States. There are sound policy reasons that support such a strong line. There is an inherent friction between the roles of judge and participant in plea negotiations. The involvement of a district court judge or Magistrate-Judge in what is by nature a rather adversarial process could easily be perceived a coercive by a defendant, especially if the judge comments, even in passing, on the case’s eventual outcome or the quality of the evidence.

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