United States v. Wilkes

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 03-10-2014
  • Case #: 11-50152; 12-50257
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Fletcher and Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

If Supreme Court precedent directly applies in a case, but appears to rest upon “reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls,” because the Supreme Court is entitled to overrule its own decisions, not the Court of Appeals.

Brent Wilkes was convicted on thirteen charges including: wire fraud, bribery, conspiracy and money laundering. On appeal, Wilkes argued that because the district judge determined the amount of his criminal forfeiture, instead of a jury, his right to a jury trial had been violated. The district court therefore erred when it denied his motion for a new trial. Wilkes contended that the Supreme Court’s decisions Apprendi v. New Jersey and Alleyne v. United States, require a jury, not a judge, to “find facts justifying an increase in either end of the range of the prescribed penalty.” He further argued that Apprendi and Alleyne, were applied to monetary penalties under Southern Union Co. v. United States. The Ninth Circuit rejected Wilkes’s arguments. The panel held that Wilkes’s arguments are “directly contradicted by binding Supreme Court precedent.” In Libretti v. United States, the Supreme Court “expressly held that that there is no Sixth Amendment right to a jury verdict in a criminal forfeiture proceeding.” Furthermore, if Supreme Court precedent “has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls.” The Supreme Court has the “prerogative of overruling its own decisions,” not the Court of Appeals. The panel therefore concluded that there was no error in a judge determining Wilkes’ criminal forfeiture amount. AFFIRMED.

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