Monday, April 17, 2006

For your consideration

I present you with the following:

Among the rights afforded the accused in a criminal case is the right to the Assistance of Counsel for defense, according to the Sixth Amendment.

In an upcoming case, the Supreme Court will look at how far that right to counsel extends with respect to choosing one's own counsel.

The issue is whether or not an accused has the right to counsel of their own choosing, or merely the right of "capable" counsel. The argument is that lawyers are not fungible, or interchangeable, like CBS dramas. In U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez, the question will come straight to the front, as Gonzalez-Lopez is a paying defendant (i. e. he's hiring his own defense counsel, not being assigned one). According to the article linked above, Gonzalez-Lopez had attempted to hire an attorney from California to represent him in his Missouri trial, but the Judge wouldn't allow it, to such a point that he relegated the would-be counselor to the gallery and assigned a U.S. Marshall to stand between said counselor and potential client. If you read the article, you can get more specifics.

I think I like the idea that an accused should be entitled to the lawyer of his or her choosing, especially when he or she is able to pay for said attorney. I don't think that it works right to say "well, you need a lawyer, so here's a lawyer." That doesn't play as well. Look what it's done for the Lions - they've needed a quarterback for 40 years, and while they keep putting people behind the center who are called "quarterback," they're just not as good as other quarterbacks.

However, I don't know if I agree that any lawyer should be allowed simply because local lawyers might be intimidated by the judge. I think that's a stretch. I think that if there is a compelling reason to not allow an attorney, then that should come into play and perhaps the lawyer should be disallowed. However, I feel that we should start with the rebuttable presumption that the lawyer the accused hires is best suited for the case.


Michelle said...

Interesting. Here, the law states that the accused has the right to a lawyer of his choice. If he can't afford one, then one will be appointed for him. In saying this if he/she doesn't like the lawyer he may appeal, but this can only happen on "special grounds", otherwise too bad. This stems from a trial that went ahead in the 90's. Ivan Milat, the notorious back packer murderer, screwed the system around for ages chopping and changing legal counsel because he couldn't afford it, said he didn't get along etc...he did it deliberately of course to prolong his fate. Thankfully smarts took over and changed the law.

nuje said...

There are a lot of words in this post.