Rivera-Longoria v. Superior Court (Slayton)

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Justia Opinion Summary

After Petitioner was indicted on child abuse, the State extended a plea offer in May 2009 without imposing a deadline for its acceptance. A new prosecutor was assigned to the case in August 2009 and notified Petitioner that the offer was no longer available. Petitioner moved under Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8, which authorizes sanctions if a prosecutor imposes a plea deadline and fails to disclose certain information to the defense at least thirty days before the offer lapses, to preclude any evidence disclosed after July 29, 2009. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals granted relief to Petitioner, holding that rule 15.8 applied because the State effectively imposed a deadline on the offer by withdrawing it. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals, holding (1) rule 15.8 does not apply when a prosecutor withdraws an open-ended plea offer; and (2) in such a situation, Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.7 governs the imposition of sanctions for any failure to make required disclosures. Remanded.

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SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA En Banc MARTIN RIVERA-LONGORIA, ) ) Petitioner, ) ) v. ) ) THE HONORABLE DAN SLAYTON, JUDGE ) OF THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE ) STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the ) County of Coconino, ) ) Respondent Judge, ) ) ) STATE OF ARIZONA, through DAVID ) W. ROZEMA, Coconino County ) Attorney, ) ) Real Parties in Interest. ) ) __________________________________) Arizona Supreme Court No. CV-10-0362-PR Court of Appeals Division One No. 1 CA-SA 10-0068 Coconino County Superior Court No. CR2008-0785 O P I N I O N Appeal from the Superior Court in Coconino County The Honorable Dan Slayton, Judge REMANDED ________________________________________________________________ Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 225 Ariz. 572, 242 P.3d 171 (2010) VACATED ________________________________________________________________ KEITH A. HAMMOND, P. C. By Keith A. Hammond Attorney for Martin Rivera-Longoria Flagstaff DAVID W. ROZEMA, COCONINO COUNTY ATTORNEY By Jonathan C. Mosher, Deputy County Attorney Attorney for State of Arizona and David W. Rozema Flagstaff ARIZONA PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS' ADVISORY COUNCIL Phoenix By Elizabeth Ortiz Attorney for Amicus Curiae Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council ________________________________________________________________ B A L E S, Justice ¶1 15.8 When an indictment or information has been filed, Rule of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure authorizes sanctions if a prosecutor imposes a plea deadline and fails to disclose certain information to the defense at least thirty days before the offer lapses. We today hold that Rule 15.8 does not apply when a prosecutor withdraws an open-ended plea offer. In that situation, Rule 15.7 governs the imposition of sanctions for any failure to make required disclosures. I. ¶2 In September 2008, Martin Rivera-Longoria was indicted on one count of child abuse. After disclosing more than 1,100 pages to the defense, the State extended a plea offer in May 2009 without hearing held imposing to a ensure deadline that for its acceptance. Rivera-Longoria At understood a the offer s terms and the potential sentence if he proceeded to trial, Rivera-Longoria rejected the offer. In July, his counsel asked the prosecutor if the offer remained open. The prosecutor said the offer was still available, but might not be after the case was reassigned to another prosecutor in August. The new prosecutor subsequently notified Rivera-Longoria that the offer 2 was no longer available. Beginning in October 2009, the State disclosed more than 11,000 additional pages of discovery. ¶3 Rule 15.8 allows the superior court to preclude certain evidence not disclosed to a defendant at least thirty days before a plea deadline if the failure to disclose materially affected the defendant s decision regarding the plea offer and the prosecutor declines to reinstate the lapsed offer. Rivera-Longoria moved under Rule 15.8 to preclude any evidence disclosed after July 29, 2009. The trial court denied the motion. ¶4 Rivera-Longoria filed a special action in the court of appeals, which accepted jurisdiction and granted relief in a divided opinion. Rivera Longoria v. Slayton, 225 Ariz. 572, 242 P.3d 171 (App. 2010). Reasoning that the State effectively imposed a deadline on the offer by withdrawing it, id. at 574 ¶ 11, 242 P.3d at 173, the court of appeals held that Rule 15.8 applied. Accordingly, the court remanded the case to allow the trial court to determine whether the State had failed to make required materially disclosures affected earlier, whether Rivera-Longoria s any such decision to failure had reject the offer, and, if so, what sanctions would be appropriate if the State then declined to reinstate the plea. P.3d at 175. Id. at 576 ¶ 16, 242 The dissent concluded that Rule 15.8 should not apply here, arguing that imposing sanctions for the prosecutor s 3 failure to disclose evidence before withdrawal of a plea offer would violate separation of powers principles. Id. at 576 ¶¶ 17-19, 242 P.3d at 175 (Thompson, J., dissenting). ¶5 We accepted review because the application of Rule 15.8 to open-ended plea offers is a recurring issue of statewide importance. The Court has jurisdiction under Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24 (2009). II. A. ¶6 Disclosure in criminal cases is governed by Rules 15.1 through 15.8 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. In 2003, the disclosure rules were substantially amended based on the recommendations of a committee prosecutors, and defense attorneys. that included judges, The 2003 amendments sought, among other things, to align the disclosure rules more closely with the realities of modern practice, and to recognize the defense attorney s need for basic information early in the process in order to meaningfully confer with the client and make appropriate strategic decisions. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.1, cmt. to 2003 amend. ¶7 felony The state s disclosure obligations are staggered. cases, at the arraignment or preliminary In hearing prosecutors must disclose certain law enforcement reports and expert analyses that were in the possession of the attorney 4 filing the charge at the time of the filing. 15.1(a). Ariz. R. Crim. P. In superior court cases, within thirty days after arraignment, the prosecution must disclose additional material and information listed in Rule 15.1(b) that is within the prosecutor s possession or control. Id. 15.1(b). Separate disclosure requirements exist for prior felony convictions of state witnesses, id. 15.1(d), and for specifically requested by the defendant. other information Id. 15.1(e). After the defense has disclosed its intended witnesses, the state must disclose its rebuttal witnesses. ¶8 Id. 15.1(h). Rule 15.6 imposes a continuing duty to disclose and generally directs that all seven days before trial. required disclosure completed The trial court may modify the time for disclosure or order additional disclosure. (g). be Id. 15.1(c), If the state fails to make a required disclosure, the court may impose appropriate sanctions, which include precluding evidence or declaring a mistrial. ¶9 Rule obligations agreements. 15.8 in sets specified This rule Id. 15.7(a). forth the state s circumstances disclosure involving provides: If the prosecution has imposed a plea deadline in a case in which an indictment or information has been filed in Superior Court, but does not provide the defense with material disclosure listed in Rule 15.1(b) at least 30 days prior to the plea deadline, the court, upon motion of the defendant, shall consider the impact of failure to provide such 5 plea disclosure on the defendant s decision to accept or reject a plea offer. If the court determines that the prosecutor s failure to provide such disclosure materially impacted the defendant s decision and the prosecutor declines to reinstate the lapsed plea offer, the presumptive minimum sanction shall be preclusion from admission at trial of any evidence not disclosed at least 30 days prior to the deadline. Id. 15.8. B. ¶10 We granted review to decide whether the prosecution imposed a plea deadline for purposes of Rule 15.8 when it withdrew an acceptance. offer that did not specify a deadline for its The State, however, argues more broadly that Rule 15.8 is unconstitutional as a violation of separation of powers. Because defendants have no constitutional right to plea bargains and the executive has the prerogative of deciding whether to offer a plea, see State v. Morse, 127 Ariz. 25, 31-32, 617 P.2d 1141, 1147-48 improperly (1980), infringes the on State executive contends powers by that Rule authorizing 15.8 the preclusion of evidence if the prosecutor declines to reinstate a plea offer. ¶11 15.8. We reject the State s constitutional challenge to Rule The Rule does not require a prosecutor to offer a plea agreement or prevent a prosecutor from withdrawing an offer. Rather, it imposes disclosure imposes a plea deadline. obligations if the prosecution If certain evidence is not timely 6 disclosed at least thirty days before the deadline, Rule 15.8 provides for sanctions only if two things happen: the court determines the failure to disclose materially affected the defendant s decision regarding the plea offer and the prosecutor declines to reinstate the lapsed offer. ¶12 a The State correctly notes that defendants do not have federal constitutional right to disclosure before entering into a plea bargain. 536 U.S. 622, 625 (2002). not delimit Napolitano this Court s in v. Brown, power See United States v. Ruiz, to criminal 194 information But a defendant s federal rights do disclosure governing of Ariz. adopt cases. 340, 342, procedural Cf. rules State ex rel. P.2d 815, 817 982 (1999) (noting that Arizona Constitution vests the power to make procedural rules exclusively in this court ). ¶13 have Rule 15.8 was adopted to ensure that, once charges been filed in provided to the deadline to allow superior defense an court, sufficiently informed effective assistance of counsel. to 2003 amend. plea basic in decision discovery will be advance of a plea on offer with the Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8, cmt. The rule does not subordinate the prosecutor s bargaining authority to the discretion of the courts. State v. Donald, 198 Ariz. 406, 417 ¶ 42, 10 P.3d 1193, 1204 (App. 2000). The prosecution retains discretion to determine whether to make a plea offer, the terms of any offer, the length 7 of time an offer will remain open, and the other particulars of plea bargaining. ¶14 The State argues that Rule 15.8, at least as interpreted by the court of appeals, may require it to keep an offer open indefinitely or face preclusion of evidence at trial. This assertion misapprehends the Rule. triggered only if the state Potential sanctions are fails to provide material disclosure listed in Rule 15.1(b) at least thirty days before a plea deadline. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8. Rule 15.1(b) concerns material and information within the prosecutor s possession or control. Id. 15.1(b); see also id. 15.1(f). In addition, Rule 15.6 requires the prosecution to seasonably make additional disclosures Id. when 15.6(a). new or These different provisions information indicate is that discovered. Rule 15.8 disclosure obligations relate to Rule 15.1(b) evidence that is within the prosecutor s possession or control when the offer lapses. ¶15 The state does not face Rule 15.8 sanctions if it declines to reinstate a lapsed offer after obtaining new information subject to disclosure under Rule 15.1(b) and Rule 15.6. deadline Nor must for disclosures a prosecutor another have been extend thirty days timely provided, an when, outstanding offer s after 15.1(b) new information within the prosecutor s possession or control. 8 Rule comes Id. 15.1(b). In that situation, if the prosecutor promptly supplements the prior disclosures before the deadline lapses, the disclosures will be seasonably made under Rule 15.6. ¶16 A prosecutor who wishes to avoid potential sanctions under Rule 15.8 need only provide the material disclosure identified in Rule 15.1(b) at least thirty days before a plea offer deadline and promptly disclose any additional information under Rule 15.6 before the deadline lapses. not constitute an unconstitutional These provisions do encroachment on executive powers under the criteria listed in State ex el. Woods v. Block, 189 Ariz. 269, 276, 942 P.2d 428, 435 (1997). C. ¶17 We turn to whether the court of appeals erred in interpreting Rule 15.8 to apply to an open-ended offer that is withdrawn. imposed a Rule 15.8 applies only [i]f the prosecution has plea deadline. Applying principles of statutory construction to interpret court rules, we give clear language its usual, ordinary meaning unless doing so creates an absurd result. Preston v. Kindred Hosps., 226 Ariz. 391, 393 ¶ 8, 249 P.3d 771, 773 (2011).  ¶18 time The limit, assignment. term as deadline for payment is of ordinarily a debt or understood completion as of a an American Heritage Dictionary 466 (4th ed. 2006). Deadlines in this sense prospectively identify the period in 9 which a person or entity must take some action. Deadlines loom because they can be identified before they expire. Under this well-accepted usage, the prosecution imposes a deadline for purposes of Rule 15.8 when it identifies the date by which the defendant must accept a plea offer. ¶19 other This language interpretation in Rule of 15.8 deadline and other finds support disclosure in rules. Sanctions under Rule 15.8 apply only if the prosecutor declines to reinstitute the lapsed plea offer. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8. The word lapsed suggests that Rule 15.8 concerns plea offers that expired after an identified date. Cf. American Heritage Dictionary 987 (4th ed. 2006) (defining lapse to mean, among other things, [t]o be no longer valid or active; expire ). Rule 15.6 similarly uses deadline to refer to a particular date by which certain disclosures must be completed. See Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.6(c) (d). ¶20 Recognizing that the word deadline typically refers to the date or time by which something must be done, the court of appeals reasoned that deadline could also be understood to include the time when the prosecution withdraws an open-ended offer. Rivera-Longoria, 225 Ariz. at 574 ¶ 10, 242 P.3d at 173. Although a defendant no longer can accept an offer once it is withdrawn, we do not agree that withdrawing an offer without an express deadline is the same as imposing a deadline. 10 A plea deadline and a withdrawal of an offer are not analogous: a deadline prospectively identifies a date by which a defendant may accept or reject a plea offer, while the withdrawal of an offer eliminates the defendant s option to accept or reject the plea. Equating the withdrawal of an offer with the imposition of a deadline would also effectively extend Rule 15.8 to all plea offers, since the prosecutor withdraw an open-ended offer. always could potentially This interpretation is contrary to the conditional language of Rule 15.8, which does not say that the rule applies to all offers, but instead applies only [i]f the prosecution has imposed a plea deadline. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8. ¶21 The court of appeals also concluded that the withdrawal of an open-ended offer could implicate the policy concerns that led to the adoption of Rule 15.8. See Rivera- Longoria, 225 Ariz. at 575 ¶ 15, 242 P.3d at 174 (observing that if rule does not apply, a defendant and his counsel could be deprived of information that may be material to a pending openended plea offer, whenever the State revoking an open-ended plea offer ). makes disclosure after There may be some truth to this observation inasmuch as Rule 15.8 reflects the view that defendants should receive certain basic disclosures before having to decide on plea offers made early in the case. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 15.8, cmt. to 2003 amend. 11 See But it is difficult to conclude that this observation applies here. Rivera-Longoria rejected a plea offer months after his arraignment and after at least some disclosures, but then later argued that Rule 15.8 sanctions should apply to evidence disclosed after the State had renewed the prior offer and then withdrew it. (There is no issue before this Court regarding the sufficiency of the State s initial Rule 15.1(b) disclosures.) ¶22 More importantly, to the extent the policy concerns motivating Rule 15.8 are implicated by the withdrawal of openended offers, we think the better approach is to consider amending the rule rather than construing the imposi[tion] [of] a plea deadline to mean the withdrawal of an offer without a deadline. Moreover, apart from Rule 15.8, a trial court is authorized by Rule 15.7(a) to impose any sanction it finds appropriate for a failure to timely make required disclosures. This rule may provide a basis for sanctions, including the preclusion of certain evidence, if a prosecutor fails to provide required disclosures before withdrawing an open-ended offer. We express no view on whether Rule 15.7 might apply to the facts of this case. 12 III. ¶23 We vacate the opinion of the court of appeals and remand this case to the superior court for further proceedings. _____________________________________ W. Scott Bales, Justice CONCURRING: _____________________________________ Rebecca White Berch, Chief Justice _____________________________________ Andrew D. Hurwitz, Vice Chief Justice _____________________________________ A. John Pelander, Justice _____________________________________ Robert M. Brutinel, Justice 13