Protecting the Constitutional Right to Counsel for Indigents Charged with Misdemeanors, Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Fourteenth Congress, First Session, May 13, 2015   [open pdf - 3MB]

This is a testimony compilation of the May 13, 2015 hearing "Protecting the Constitutional Right to Counsel for Indigents Charged with Misdemeanors" held before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. From the opening statement of Chairman Chuck Grassley: "Today the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on indigent misdemeanor representation. According to the Sixth Amendment Center, and certainly in my memory, this is the first time the Senate Judiciary Committee has ever held a hearing on this subject. The Sixth Amendment provides criminal defendants with the assistance of counsel. For more than 50 years, following the Gideon decision, it has been clear that it is necessary to give people wi thout financial means accused of crimes the right to a lawyer to help them navigate the system, preserve their rights, and make sure innocent people don't go to jail. Clarence Gideon himself, when retried with a lawyer representing him, was acquitted. And that landmark ruling was extended in 1972 to misdemeanor defendants for good reason. The overwhelming majority of people who face criminal charges are prosecuted for misdemeanors. In Iowa, for example, 80% of all criminal prosecutions are for misdemeanors, among the highest rate in the country. Some states have adhered to the Constitution. In Iowa, t he county courts do an excellent job of providing counsel to misdemeanor defendants. I am pleased that Chief Justice Cady of Iowa is with us today. Last month, his court extended the right to counsel by not permitting uncounseled convictions to be used a s sentencing enhancements in subsequent crimes. Uncounseled convictions must exist in Iowa, however, or the decision wouldn't be necessary. But many states are not providing counsel as the Constitution requires. It is a widespread problem. In reality, the Supreme Court's Sixth Amendment decisions regarding misdemeanor defendants are violated thousands of times every day. No Supreme Court decisions in our history have been violated so widely, so frequently, and for so long." Statements, letters, and materials submitted for the record include those of the following: Mark S. Cady, David A. Singleton, Neil Fulton, Robert C. Boruchowitz, and Erica J. Hashimoto.

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