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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Supreme Court: The Deprivation of the Right to Choose One's Attorney is Enough to Get a Conviction Overturned

From nytimes.com: In United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, the court ruled Monday in a 5-4 decision that the right to hire a lawyer of one's choice is so basic that a defendant who has been wrongly forced to accept a different lawyer is entitled to have a conviction overturned.

The right to counsel and the right to a fair trial were two separate rights, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, stated, adding that the right to counsel "commands, not that a trial be fair, but that a particular guarantee of fairness be provided — to wit, that the accused be defended by the counsel he believes to be best."

Justice Scalia noted that the Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to "effective" legal representation and that the court's precedents require defendants claiming a violation of that right to show that they have suffered "prejudice" from ineffective counsel.

The distinction was logical, Justice Scalia said, because a violation of the right to effective representation "is not 'complete' until the defendant is prejudiced." By contrast, he said, the right to counsel of choice is a violation "because the deprivation of counsel was erroneous" and "no additional showing of prejudice is required to make the violation 'complete.' " 

Rest of Article...  [Mark Godsey]

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