Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Arbuckle Rights Definition:

The right of an accused to be sentenced by the judge who took his guilty plea.

US flagAll members of a court speak on behalf of the court, as if with one voice. Thus, when a person pleads guilty before a particular judge of a court, there is no continuity of the person of the judge as to who might thereafter preside over his or her sentencing.

However, especially with sharp counsel wishing to bring to lend to a client's sentencing the particularities of a certain judge, before they arrange to plead guilty, the person having plead guilty may have a right to be sentenced by that same judge who took his plea, provided that the record at the time of the plea shows that there was such an expectation.

Arbuckle rights came about as a result of the California case of The People v Arbuckle.

But in 2005 case of The People v Martinez, the California Court of Appeals qualified Arbuckle rights:

"Courts have not extended Arbuckle to probation violation hearings, nor should they. Multi-judge superior courts act as one superior court. Even if a superior court creates departments for administrative ease and judicial efficiency, the departments ordinarily operate under the presumption that they are jurisdictionally equivalent and fungible. Arbuckle, resting on contract principles, created a limited exception to the fungibility of superior court departments."


  • People v. Arbuckle 22 Cal. 3d 749 (1978)
  • People v Letteer 127 California Reporter 2d 723 and 103 California App. 4th 1308
  • People v Martinez, California Court of Appeal, B170558 (Los Angeles)

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