Tuesday, November 5, 2013

United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez case brief

United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez case brief summary
548 U.S. 140 (2006)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant was convicted of a drug offense but asserted that he was denied his right to counsel of his choice. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, the government appealed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which held that the denial of defendant's right to counsel of choice was reversible error.

CASE FACTS
Defendant's retained counsel was denied admission pro hac vice to represent defendant based on putative violations of a rule of professional conduct, and the government conceded that defendant was denied his right to counsel of choice. The government argued, however, that there was no showing that defendant was prejudiced by his actual representation or that the error was not harmless.

DISCUSSION
  • The U.S. Supreme Court held that, once the denial of defendant's right to chosen counsel was established, the violation of defendant's right to counsel was complete and no showing of prejudice was required. 
  • Regardless of whether defendant received a fair trial in accordance with due process, defendant's right to counsel of his choice was the root of the constitutional guarantee of assistance of counsel. 
  • Further, given the disparities in defense attorneys' approaches and strategies in representing defendants, the consequences of the denial of defendant's right to counsel of choice were not quantifiable, and harmless-error analysis in such a context would constitute pure speculation.

CONCLUSION

The judgment holding that the denial of defendant's right to counsel of choice was reversible error was affirmed.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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