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November 01, 2005

SCOTUS to Pro Se Criminal Defendants: Screw You

In a per curiam decision, the SCOTUS ruled today in Kane v. Garcia Espitia (PDF) that pro-se criminal defendants have no right to access to legal research materials. In other words, if you want to represent yourself in a criminal matter and you're incarcerated at the time, good luck, bub.

Ok, that's not exactly what it says. So what does it say? Here are your choices:

  1. The decision shows how out of touch the Court is with the reality of our legal system as it applies to criminal defendants. The court said Garcia Espitia “had declined, as was his right, to be represented by a lawyer with unlimited access to legal materials.” Since when do lawyers have unlimited access to legal materials? Last I checked in most of the country you have to pay for that and some lawyers can't afford it.
  2. The decision shows how narrowly this Court is interpreting the 6th Amendment.
  3. The decision shows how the Court uses the AEDPA as another tool to avoid deciding cases it doesn't want to decide.
  4. The decision shows how awful the AEDPA is for criminal defendants and the Constitution.
  5. The decision shows the Court respecting the wishes of Congress and declining to decide and issue that has not appropriately arisen for decision.
  6. The decision shows something else you haven't thought of, you silly little man.


Another potentially important criminal case granted cert. today was Hammon v. Indiana in which the Indiana Supreme Court held that a victim’s oral statements to a responding officer were not testimonial and therefore did not violate the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment. If the SCOTUS agrees, this could be really good for domestic violence prosecutions and pretty bad for domestic violence defendants.

I learned about both of these cases (and another one about 911 calls that was granted cert. today) via Willamette Law Online's email summaries of breaking legal news. I highly recommend it as a way to stay up-to-date on SCOTUS news (or 9th Circuit or Oregon higher courts, if that's what floats your boat). Good stuff.

Posted November 1, 2005 11:38 AM | crimlaw

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