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June 20, 2011

Notable SCOTUS ruling in right to counsel Turner v. Rogers case

Thanks again to the SCOTUSblog folks doing their always effective live-blogging, I can provide this early report on the first notable ruling today for procedure fans:

The first opinion is Turner v. Rogers, the right to counsel case.  Opinion is by Justice Breyer. SC Ct. vacated and remanded.  It's five to four.  Justice Thomas dissented, joined in full by Scalia and in part by the Chief and Alito....

Even though Turner has completed hs sentence and no collateral consequences are alleged, his case is not moot because it is capable of repetition while evading review.  The 14th Amendment does not automatically require the state to provide counsel at civil contempt proceedings even if the indigent faces incarceration.  But the Court holds that here Turner's incarceration violated due process becasue he had neither counsel nor adequate procedural safeguards.  The Court says that various factors argue strongly "against" requiring counsel in every proceeding of this kind.

The opinion in Turner is here.

Though I will have to read the full Turner opinion carefully to be sure, despite the ruling for the petitioner, this ruling actually appears to be a bit of a reduction, not expansion, of the right to counsel.  (In addition, none of the few other remaining cases with criminal justice issues or implications were handed down today, and there is a big ruling in the Wal-Mart class action/empoyment discrimination case that seems sure to dominate SCOTUS discussions for some time.) 

June 20, 2011 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

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