Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Supreme Court’s Decisions On The Sixth Amendment’s Right To Counsel

[Today, the Supreme Court issued two opinions clarifying the Sixth Amendment’s right to effective assistance of counsel.  In Missouri v. Frye, the Court, by a vote of 5-4, held that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel extends to the consideration of plea offers that lapse or are rejected, and the Court reaffirmed that it applies to all critical stages of a criminal proceeding.  In Lafler v. Cooper, also by a vote of 5-4, the Court put forth what a defendant must prove to win a Sixth Amendment claim when the bad advice given to a defendant led to the rejection of a plea offer.  Both opinions were written by Justice Kennedy.]

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court today recognized that the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel extends to cases involving plea bargain deals that are rejected or that lapse due to bad advice given by defense lawyers.  Approximately 95 percent of all criminal cases nationwide are resolved through plea agreements and it is critical that both parties in these negotiations are well represented. 

“In the coming weeks, I expect the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider the reauthorization of the Justice for All Act, which includes important measures designed to ensure that Sixth Amendment rights are not violated.  In order for our criminal justice system to work, each side must have competent, well-trained counsels.”

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