Kernan v. Cuero, No. 16-1468, 583 U.S. _____ (November 6, 2017).
Cuero was charged with following an automobile accident that caused serious bodily harm to a pedestrian. The accident occurred while Cuero was on parole: he was operating a vehicle without a license, was under the influence of methamphetamine, and was in possession of a small firearm.
Cuero executed a plea agreement that recited prior convictions and provided a fourteen year prison term, a fine, and parole.
California then determined that one of Cuero’s prior convictions counted as a ‘strike’ under that state’s ‘three strikes’ law. The state sought and obtained leave to amend the criminal complaint Cuero was permitted to withdraw his plea, and later entered into a new agreement that provided a prison term of twenty five years to life.
Cuero then sought habeas corpus relief to enforce the original plea agreement through specific performance. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Cuero contractual relief.
The Supreme Court reversed, finding no clearly established federal law had been violated which would support relief under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, P.L. 104-132. No decision could be found supporting the equitable contractual remedy sought in connection with a plea agreement.