One month after the grant of certiorari in a case involving an inmate on Idaho’s death row, attorneys for both the prisoner and the state attorney general’s office have asked the Justices to vacate the Ninth Circuit ruling below and dismiss the case as moot. The motion on behalf of Idaho prisoner Maxwell Hoffman, filed on Monday, is available here. The state’s response is available here. The case is Arave v. Hoffman, 07-110. (Link to SCOTUSwiki.)

Hoffman was convicted of first degree murder in 1993 and sentenced to death in an Idaho court. Almost a decade later, a federal habeas court vacated the death sentence for ineffective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase of the trial. The habeas court rejected a separate ineffective assistance claim relating to pre-trial negotiations, when Hoffman’s attorney advised him not to accept the state’s offer of a life sentence on the mistaken theory that Idaho’s death penalty scheme would later be found unconstitutional. A Ninth Circuit panel reversed on the pre-trial claim in mid-2006, requiring the state to release Hoffman unless officials offered him the original plea bargain. Idaho appealed, and the Court granted certiorari on November 5.

In the motion to vacate and dismiss, Hoffman’s lawyers say the inmate wished to withdraw the pre-trial ineffective assistance claim in order to proceed with the resentencing originally ordered by the federal habeas court for the penalty phase ineffective assistance claim. According to the motion, a status conference is set for December 13 before an Idaho state judge. Joan Fisher of the Federal Public Defender’s office in Idaho wrote that Hoffman made his decision “[a]fter extensive consultations with counsel,” and that his “trial and habeas counsel fully concur with his decision.”

Lawyers from the Idaho Attorney General’s office also asked the Court to grant Hoffman’s motion. “Because Hoffman’s request is virtually identical to the request made by the state in its Petition for Certiorari,” wrote Deputy Attorney General L. LaMont Anderson, “there is no case or controversy pending before this Court if the Ninth Circuit’s decision is vacated pursuant to Hoffman’s motion.”

The Ninth Circuit opinion below can be found here, the dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc here, the petition for certiorari here, and the brief in opposition here.

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