Monday, September 15, 2014

Chin-ups on the Heck Bar

Brown v. County of L.A., No. B249825 (Aug. 29, 2014)

Chalk this one up as one of the more creative prisoner arguments I’ve seen in a while. Plaintiff is doing seventeen years to life for a murder he committed as a teenager. He claims that, because he was underage when he plead guilty, his plea agreement is voidable under Civil Code § 35, which allows minors to disaffirm contracts. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, you can’t use a civil suit to collaterally attack a criminal judgment. That’s what habeas is for. Further, although the plea bargain/contract analogy is oft drawn, criminal law does not wholesale import every aspect of civil contract law. While age is a recognized factor in measuring the voluntariness of a plea, there’s no bright line rule about minors like the one that applies to civil contracts.


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