All Aboard! The Supreme Court, Guilty Pleas, and the Railroading of Criminal Defendants

58 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2004

See all articles by Julian A. Cook

Julian A. Cook

University of Georgia School of Law


This Article conducts an in-depth examination of the federal plea withdrawal rules and details how the current rules unfairly and adversely impact not only defendant interests in plea withdrawal, but also the fairness and constitutionality of the guilty plea process. Several years ago, Professors Albert Alschuler, Stephen Schulhofer, Robert Scott and William Stuntz wrote a series of well-received law review articles that critiqued the merits and demerits of plea bargaining. However, since then, various events have occurred that necessitate not only a reevaluation of the critical issues raised in those earlier articles, but also a more exhaustive review of the federal guilty plea process as a whole. Professor Cook examines two of those recent events - the 1997 United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Hyde, and the December 2002 amendments to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure - and details how these events have profoundly and adversely influenced the fairness and legitimacy of the existent plea bargaining and guilty plea processes. Through a novel application of contract law and a discussion of rational choice theory, this article details how the existing guilty plea procedure systematically betrays enforceable plea agreements. More particularly, through an illuminating and comprehensive examination of the federal plea withdrawal rules in light of contractual and constitutional standards, Professor Cook explains why this subterfuge of enforceability unfairly binds defendants to unaccepted plea offers and constricts their ability to pursue more optimal strategies in a manner unseen in standard marketplace contracts.

Suggested Citation

Cook, Julian A., All Aboard! The Supreme Court, Guilty Pleas, and the Railroading of Criminal Defendants. MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 02-9, Available at SSRN:

Julian A. Cook (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States

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