Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Expands Defendant’s Rights In Plea Deals

In both the federal and state court systems, 9 out of 10 cases end up in a plea bargain, wiping out the notion of your “day in court”.  Both Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are no different. We know families with loved ones serving long prison sentences, had their children taken away, or ended up in deportation proceedings because of a plea bargain gone wrong.  But the Supreme Court ruled this week that defendants have a right to competent counsel during the plea bargaining phase of the criminal justice system.  This ruling honestly is a little surprising, because you’d think effective assistance of counsel should extend to all phases of the justice system already.  But this seals the clarity once and for all.  Submission post by Charisse Domingo

Supreme Court expands defendant’s rights in plea deals

In two 5-4 decisions, the Supreme Court rules that defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea deal.

By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
Los Angeles Times
March 21, 2012

Reporting from Washington—

Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain, the Supreme Court ruled, providing a significant expansion of rights that could have a broad impact on the justice system. Continue reading

New York Times: Go To Trial – Crash the Justice System by Michele Alexander

Many times – -the 98% plea rate in Santa Clara County continues to allow the District Attorney to insist on–and to threaten– long prison sentences because in essence –we have allowed the DA to continue to hold all of the cards. The we in this case being our legal representatives — mostly the institutional public defender system– that we pay the taxes for to keep them in existence. In this editorial that appeared in the New York Times, Michele Alexander talks about how if the justice system can be turned around if more people just insisted on their cases going to trial.  Submission Post by Aram James

OPINION

Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

by Michele Alexander
Photo by Edward Keating
New York Times
SAturday, March 10, 2012

After years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”
Continue reading