United States v. Watson, No. 22-1779 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Watson pled guilty to federal charges pursuant to an agreement that waived his right to appeal any aspect of his conviction or sentence, subject to exceptions not relevant to his appeal. Following sentencing, Watson instructed his appointed counsel to file a notice of appeal. Counsel did so but then moved to withdraw because he did not practice in appellate courts. The court appointed another lawyer and set a schedule allowing 90 days for the opening brief. The government cited the waiver in the plea agreement and immediately moved to dismiss the appeal.
The Seventh Circuit denied the motion. The government’s filing a motion to dismiss before the opening brief is generally premature. Even a broad appeal waiver forecloses only certain arguments, not the appeal itself, and a defendant has no obligation to identify what arguments he may bring when filing a notice of appeal. Neither counsel nor the defendant has done anything incompatible with the waiver until they press an argument the waiver forecloses. The grounds for dismissal do not exist until those arguments are made in the opening brief.