Supreme Court deepens rights of accused in plea bargains


The Supreme Court considers robes to match Congressional garb

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a pair of 5-to-4 decisions that vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers.

“Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The right to adequate assistance of counsel cannot be defined or enforced without taking account of the central role plea bargaining takes in securing convictions and determining sentences.”

And that…is a beancounters’ ethic at work. The leading motive for plea-bargains is the budget.

Justice Kennedy, who more often joins the court’s conservative wing in ideologically divided cases, was in this case in a coalition with the court’s four more liberal members. That alignment has sometimes arisen in recent years in cases that seemed to offend Justice Kennedy’s sense of fair play…

Claims of ineffective assistance at trial are commonplace even though trials take place under a judge’s watchful eye. Challenges to plea agreements based on misconduct by defense lawyers will presumably be common as well, given how many more convictions follow guilty pleas and the fluid nature of plea negotiations…

Scholars agreed about its significance.

RTFA for all the legalistic blather. The conservative cabal – including Chief Justice Roberts are always most concerned about the number of cases that will spin from this decision.

The best part of was the ruling about defendants having a right to an effective lawyer. While I’ve known a fair number of talented and skillful lawyers [which they coupled with care for our Constitution and dedication to ordinary people’s needs] – there seems to be a constantly growing crop of incompetents. A conclusion I feel is matched by the truly awful – but politically connected – who seem to end up as judges.

2 thoughts on “Supreme Court deepens rights of accused in plea bargains

  1. drugsandotherthings says:

    And an issue that remains unadressed is the pratice of bundling or escalation of charges.

    Let’s say you smoke cannabis- and the cops show up at your house. So you get busted for pot. Big deal- it’s a few grams, your first offense, and you don’t live in a draconian state like texas or oklahoma.

    But wait. You have two bags- one sativa for general use, one indica for before bed. Two bags- now you’ve got dealing charges. And wait- you’ve got a kitchen scale (crusted with flour and melted chocolate), AND – surprise surprise- you’ve got ziplock bags in the kitchen. Dealing paraphernalia charges. And of course you’ve got two pipes, a pack of rolling papers, and a vaporizer- 4 drug paraphernalia charges. And wait- you’re a duck hunter, and in the closet, behind all the safety orange is your gun safe with two unloaded and triggerlocked shotguns. Possession of firearms while comitting a crime. And oh wait- the house you’ve owned since 1997- well 7 months ago they put in a community park where they tore down that old building- possession and dealing drugs within 1000 feet of a school or park.

    So now, simple possession.use of a few grams of cannabis has become a dozen or more crimes- many felonies or carrying mandatory minimums. And now the police will be so kind as to let you plead to a few counts of dealing…or go to trial and all the charges.

    Gotta love “justice” in america…

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