When Judges Disagree…

December 15, 2023

When Judges Disagree…

In a decision published only one week ago in Saffold v. State, 2023 WL 8246165 (Fla. 4th DCA 11/29/2023), the Fourth District held that the defendant-appellant was not entitled to bring a motion to withdraw a plea pursuant to Rule 3.170(f) , Fla.R.Crim.P., upon court-ordered resentencing. The Court therefore affirmed the denial of the defendant-appellant’s motion to withdraw his plea. It certified a conflict with Scott v. State, 331 So. 3d 297, 301 (Fla. 2d DCA 2021), where the Second District panel held the exact opposite.

How should a criminal defense lawyer advise a defendant when case precedent from the local district court of appeal is not favorable to his or her legal position, but conflicts with precedent from another district court of appeal?

Answer: Advise defendant to raise the issue to “preserve” it because the Florida Supreme Court can resolve a certified conflict of opinions between two district courts, see Art. V, § 3(b)(4) of Fla. Constitution (certified conflict jurisdiction); see also Rule 9.030(a)(2), Fla.R.App.P., (“The discretionary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be sought to review… decisions of district courts of appeal that… expressly and directly conflict with a decision of another district court of appeal…”), as in the case of the Fourth District in Saffold barring a motion to withdraw a plea upon court-ordered resentencing, but certifying a conflict with the opinion of the Second District. If the Supreme Court rules Saffold was wrongly decided, and the Second District was right in Scott, those who “preserved” the issue on advice of counsel, will be able to bring a motion to withdraw their pleas.

Artificial Intelligence-assisted justice is likely to become a reality in the coming decades holding the hope and promise that the days of disagreements among overworked Judges may be counted.

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