Chief Justice Roberts’s Ode to Criminal Defense Lawyers

February 25th, 2014

Powerful words from the Chief’s dissent in Kaley v. United States, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor:

The issues presented here implicate some of the most fundamental precepts underlying the American criminal justice system. A person accused by the United States of committing a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But he faces a foe of powerful might and vast resources, intent on seeing him behind bars. That individual has the right to choose the advocate he believes will most ably defend his liberty at trial.

Federal prosecutors, when they rise in court, represent the people of the United States. But so do defense lawyers— one at a time. In my view, the Court’s opinion pays insufficient respect to the importance of an independent bar as a check on prosecutorial abuse and government overreaching. Granting the Government the power to take away a defendant’s chosen advocate strikes at the heart of that significant role. I would not do it, and so respectfully dissent.

Every criminal defense attorney in the country should take a bow (unless the DOJ moves to freeze their client’s funds so they can’t be retained).