Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Roundup: the right to counsel

Just two things in today's roundup, but both troubling developments concerning how the right to counsel is observed and respected. For one, just yesterday,

The Constitution Project’s National Right to Counsel Committee released its much-anticipated report, Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of our Constitutional Right to Counsel, today at an event held at Arnold & Porter LLP. The report details the endemic and systemic failures of the indigent defense system and recommends twenty-two specific and urgently needed reforms to fix them. The full report and other relevant materials are available online here.
Meanwhile, with unintentionally ironic timing, the Obama administration is making known its very worrisome stance on the right to the assistance of counsel. Simple Justice has a very good post here on the importance and history of this right. The post begins this way:
There isn't a competent lawyer in the practical blawgosphere who hasn't warned defendants to remain silent and invoke their right to counsel. Immediately. Every time. No matter how smart you think you are, or what they say to you to get you to talk. Don't do it.

The rule of Edwards v. Arizona is that once a suspect has invoked right to counsel, the police cannot continue to interrogate in the absence of counsel, and the defendant cannot un-invoke his right to counsel without an attorney present...

None of this seems like striking constitutional law today, yet there is a move afoot to change it. This alone might not be terribly shocking, but for the fact that the move comes from the Obama Department of Justice and Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
Here's to more of the same.

TalkLeft has an analysis here that references this Associated Press article. An amicus brief opposing the government's move to weaken this right, filed by 19 former prosecutors and judges, can be found here.

No comments: