Home Recommended Products Contact Us
Resources & Links
Fatherlessness Statistics
Child Support
Legal Resources
Search This Site
Bad Judges List
Free Templates
Restraining Orders
Judicial Abuse Stories
Father's Stories
Legal Help & Referrals
Constitutional Rights
Table of Contents
Terms & Conditions
Signup for Newsletter
Search Site



No. 03—10198.Argued April 25, 2005–Decided June 23, 2005

In Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, this Court held that, in criminal proceedings, a State must provide counsel for an indigent defendant in a first appeal as of right. Two considerations were key: (1) An appeal “of right” yields an adjudication on the “merits,” id., at 357, and (2) first-tier review differs from subsequent appellate stages “at which the claims have once been presented by a lawyer and passed upon by an appellate court,” id., at 356. Later, in Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600, the Court held that a State need not appoint counsel to aid a poor person seeking to pursue a second-tier discretionary appeal to the State’s highest court, or, thereafter, certiorari review in this Court. Id., at 610—612, 615—618. The Douglas rationale does not extend to second-tier discretionary review, the Court explained, because, at that stage, error correction is not the reviewing court’s prime function. Id., at 615. Principal criteria for state high court review, Ross noted, include whether the issues presented are of significant public interest, whether the cause involves legal principles of major significance to the State’s jurisprudence, and whether the decision below is in probable conflict with the high court’s precedent. Ibid. Further, a defendant who has received counsel’s aid in a first-tier appeal as of right would be armed with a transcript or other record of trial proceedings, a brief in the appeals court setting forth his claims, and, often, that court’s opinion disposing of the case. Ibid.


Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Indigent Right to Counsel in Historic Case Filed by ACLU (7/28/2004)


BOSTON - The right of poor people to legal counsel was upheld in an historic decision issued today by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Service Counsel.

"This is an historic victory in which the court has reaffirmed the right to counsel for all people," said David Hoose of the law firm Katz, Sasson, Hoose & Turnbull, who argued the case on behalf of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "We are pleased that the court has recognized both the seriousness of the Constitutional violation and the need for an immediate remedy."

The court ordered that any person charged with a crime who does not receive appointed counsel within 45 days will have his or her case dismissed, and people who have been held for more than seven days will be entitled to immediate release if a lawyer has not been appointed for them.

The order was issued in response to cases filed on behalf of more than 50 people who have been charged with crimes in Hampden County, but who have not been appointed counsel. Some of them have been imprisoned for more three months without a lawyer.

The court held that the petitioners "are being deprived of their right to counsel under Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, a deprivation that has resulted in severe restrictions on their liberty and other constitutional interests."

The court further ordered that "on a showing that no counsel is available to represent a particular indigent defendant despite good faith efforts, such a defendant may not be held more than seven days and the criminal case against such a defendant may not continue beyond forty-five days."

"Responsibility for any problems that may result from this decision lie squarely at the feet of the legislature," said Hoose. "It is a result of their unwillingness to act to provide lawyers for poor people."

"We call upon the legislature to take steps immediately to ensure that our clients will have competent representation from their very first court appearance forward," Hoose added. "They could do that by raising rates for hiring private counsels or by hiring additional public defenders. The only other alternative is to put these people on the streets."

The court's opinion is online at http://www.socialaw.com/sjcslip/sjcJuly04k.html