Attorney Michael Horowitz
Horowitz wins reversal in Alaska Court of Appeals.
In the unpublished decision of Erdmann v. Alaska, Attorney Michael Horowitz won a reversal of the trial court’s refusal to allow defendant to withdraw his plea. After he pleaded guilty, defendant moved to withdraw his plea and argued that it was entered because of a misadvisement from trial counsel. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that defendant had failed to prove that withdrawal was needed to correct a “manifest injustice.”
Attorney Horowitz filed defendant’s appeal and argued that the trial court had applied an incorrect standard. For plea withdrawal before sentencing, an Alaskan defendant may withdraw his plea for any “fair and just reason.” The manifest injustice standard applied by the trial court only applies to post-sentence plea withdrawal. Because defendant had not yet been sentenced, the trial court should have applied the fair and just reason standard.
The Alaska Court of Appeals agreed, vacated the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion, and remanded the case “for a determination of whether Erdmann established a ‘fair and just reason’ to withdraw his guilty plea prior to sentencing.” The Court of Appeals also added that “a defendant’s ‘mistaken but good faith belief . . . can constitute a fair and just reason for withdrawal of a guilty plea prior to sentencing, even if the mistaken belief is unilateral.’”