The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (Federal) issued a housekeeping ruling today (United States v. Garland) targeting counsel that wish to withdraw from a case by filing an Anders brief. The Court admonished counsel that they must not simply file a conclusory brief without any “meaningful discussion of the district court proceedings or any potential issues for appeal.” Reciting the Supreme Court’s holding in Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744 (1967), the court reminded counsel:
Rather than simply filing a brief that is little more than a no-merits letter, ‘counsel should, and can with honor and without conflict, be or more assistance to his client and to the court. His role as advocate requires that he support his client’s appeal to the best of his ability. Of course, if counsel finds his case to be wholly frivolous, after a conscientious examination of it, he should so advise the court and request permission to withdraw. That request must, however, be accompanied by a brief referring to anything in the record that might arguably support the appeal.’
To assist future counsel that wish to withdraw and file an Anders brief, the Court directs them to its website, on which it has posted guidelines and a checklist for counsel to follow.
The Fifth Circuit’s website provides a detailed checklist and outline for Anders briefs for guilty pleas and for bench or jury trials. See http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov. The guidelines and checklist are under the ‘Attorney Information Section.’ This checklist is designed to assist counsel in preparing a brief that will satisfy the standards of Anders in this circuit.
The Court goes on to state that “if counsel submits a brief meeting this standard, we will no longer independently scour the record looking for nonfrivolous issues.” There you have it. Use the court’s template and you can’t go wrong. Appellate attorneys might also find the checklist helpful in filing Anders briefs to the state courts of appeals.