Supreme Court rules in right to counsel, sentencing, standing cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down three decisions Monday, including Rothgery v. Gillespie County [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 8-1 that a person accused of a felony has the right to a lawyer at a probable cause hearing before a magistrate judge. The Court held:

We merely reaffirm what we have held before and what an overwhelming majority of American jurisdictions understand in practice: a criminal defendant’s initial appearance before a judicial officer, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the start of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
The decision reverses and remands a Fifth Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF] that the right to counsel does not exist until a defendant is indicted on charges. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Souter, a concurrence filed by Chief Justice Roberts, a concurrence filed by Justice Alito, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Thomas. AP has more.

The Court also ruled 5-4 in Sprint Communications v. APCC Services [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], finding that a plaintiff who was assigned the right to pursue a claim, but who does not stand to gain anything from the claim, nonetheless has standing to sue. Sprint argued that APCC lacked standing to sue for revenue from coinless long-distance telephone calls because it had promised to turn over any award to pay-phone service operators. The Court rejected this argument:
The aggregators' injuries relate to the failure to receive the required dialaround compensation. And if the aggregators prevail in this litigation, the long-distance carriers would write a check to the aggregators for the amount of dial-around compensation owed. What does it matter what the aggregators do with the money afterward? The injuries would be redressed whether the aggregators remit the litigation proceeds to the payphone operators, donate them to charity, or use them to build new corporate headquarters. Moreover, the statements our prior cases made about the need to show redress of the injury are consistent with what numerous authorities have long held in the assignment context, namely, that an assignee for collection may properly bring suit to redress the injury originally suffered by his assignor.
The Court's decision upholds a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer, and a dissent [texts] filed by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. AP has more.

In Greenlaw v. US [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 7-2 that a federal circuit court cannot take steps to lengthen a convict's sentence in the absence of any government appeal requesting such an extension:
The strict time limits on notices of appeal and crossappeal would be undermined, in both civil and criminal cases, if an appeals court could modify a judgment in favor of a party who filed no notice of appeal. In a criminal prosecution, moreover, the defendant would appeal at his peril, with nothing to alert him that, on his own appeal, his sentence would be increased until the appeals court so decreed.
The decision reverses and remands a ruling [PDF text] by the Eighth Circuit. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Ginsburg, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Breyer. Justice Alito filed a dissent [text], joined by Justice Stevens and joined in part by Justice Breyer.


 

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