U.S. Court Allows Pollard to Appeal

Arutz7 News - June 11, 2004

A United States Court of Appeals ruled this week that Jonathan Pollard's lawyers may submit an appeal of a lower court's refusal to reopen his case. "This is a major advance in Jonathan Pollard's quest for justice," said Pollard's attorney Eliot Lauer. "After 18 years in prison, the U.S. Court of Appeals is now committed to taking a serious look at the circumstances that led to Pollard's life sentence."

The brief order issued on Monday enables Mr. Pollard's attorneys, Lauer and Jacques Semmelman of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, to argue two appeals they filed long ago with the Court.

One appeal is against a denial of Pollard's motion to vacate his life sentence on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. The lower court denied the motion only on procedural grounds. The other appeal is of the lower court's order denying Pollard's attorneys access to classified portions of the court's sentencing docket, even though both of them have security clearance. It is expected that a schedule for briefing and oral arguments will be handed down in the coming weeks or months, though no date was set.

In 1987, Jonathan Pollard pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit espionage for a friendly country - not treason, as has often been intimated. Despite agreeing to a plea bargain and cooperating with the U.S. government, Pollard received the maximum sentence: life imprisonment. The government's aggressive pursuit of the maximum sentence was in direct violation of its plea agreement with Pollard, but this material breach went unchallenged by his original attorney. The attorney failed to object or even to file a one-page notice of appeal, thereby precluding later appellate review.

In addition, the U.S. government has blocked Pollard's new security-cleared attorneys from viewing Pollard's court sentencing file docket. No one representing Pollard has seen the file since March 4, 1987, the day he was sentenced.

"Pollard has lost several rounds in federal court," writes Anne Gearan of the Associated Press, "and [this latest ruling] that kept his case alive marked a surprising, if incremental, victory. Pollard has exhausted his regular appeals, and would need special permission from a judge to take the case further. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan turned him down last fall, and the case could have ended there. Lawyers for Pollard asked the appeals court to reconsider Hogan's ruling, a request that is routinely denied. The appeals court instead agreed to take up the matter."

"The appeals court has several options now," Gearan wrote. "The judges could uphold Hogan's ruling, meaning Pollard cannot appeal any further. Or the judges could say Pollard should have been given the chance to appeal, and order a new round of legal filings before their court. The judges could also skip a step, and rule on the appeal itself. In that event, the judges could order a fact-finding hearing in lower court on whether Pollard's original lawyer failed his client."

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