U.S. files brief in Idaho case regarding criminal defendant's right to attorney

By Mark Iandolo | May 13, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) — The Department of Justice has announced it has filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court of Idaho in Tracy Tucker et al v. state of Idaho, et al.

In the brief, the department notes the federal position on the issue is that criminal defendants who cannot afford an attorney may bring a prospective civil lawsuit to prevent violations of their constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment.

“This country is dedicated to the idea that every single person is entitled to equal justice under the law, regardless of wealth or prominence,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “The right to adequate counsel is an essential safeguard of our commitment to equal justice – and it is the responsibility of the states to protect that right, to uphold that principle, and to ensure that every defendant has access to competent counsel.”

 The department’s goal is to ensure states uphold the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, which held that everyone is entitled to a lawyer, even if that cannot afford one.

“Our country and our Constitution guarantee all people – regardless of their money or their means – equal access to justice,” said deputy assistant attorney general Gregory Friel of the Civil Rights Division. “Even today, in the 21st Century, too many poor defendants find that, in reality, the promise of Gideon seems distant and out of reach as they try to navigate our legal system and secure their rights.”

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