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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:57 AM

Justices’ Ruling Expands Rights of Accused in Plea Bargains

WASHINGTON — 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.”

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.


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Reply Justices’ Ruling Expands Rights of Accused in Plea Bargains (Original post)
groovedaddy Mar 2012 OP
Sentath Mar 2012 #1

Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:36 PM

1. One of my local public radio stations

made it sound like Scalia was pretty hot about this.

From: http://www.examiner.com/democrat-in-national/supreme-court-rules-bad-plea-bargains-unconstitutional-justice-scalia-dissents

Judge Scalia dissented calling the decision “absurd.” Scalia mocked the liberal majority for what he coined "its newly discovered constitutional right" Scalia added "Nowhere in our constitutional jurisprudence have we ever suggested that the remedy for an unconstitutional conviction could be entirely subject to a trial judge's discretion or that the remedy could ever be no remedy at all."

And from: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/dissenting_in_two_decisions_scalia_hits_new_constitutional_right_to_effecti/

Justice Antonin Scalia read aloud from his dissents in both cases. “Today,” he wrote in Lafler, “the Supreme Court of the United States elevates plea bargaining from a necessary evil to a constitutional entitlement. … The court today embraces the sporting-chance theory of criminal law, in which the state functions like a conscientious casino-operator, giving each player a fair chance to beat the house, that is, to serve less time than the law says he deserves. And when a player is excluded from the tables, his constitutional rights have been violated. I do not subscribe to that theory. No one should, least of all the justices of the Supreme Court.”

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