Today the US Supreme Court announced its decision in an important case involving the right to an attorney. As explained in a story in Slate, the case involves a defendant (Sila Luis) accused of criminal fraud of some sort. Understandably, the defendant wanted to to hire the best lawyer she could afford. However, the government froze all her assets, including those completely untainted by the alleged fraud. The defendant argued that the asset freeze violates her Sixth Amendment right “to have the assistance of counsel for [her] defense.” The government replied that there is no violation because the defendant can still hire counsel; she just has to find one who’ll represent her for free. You can see the issue, right?
So, today the Supreme Court announced its decision in which it vacated the judgment and remanded the case, siding with the defendant. Justice Breyer wrote a plurality opinion in which he wrote that the Sixth Amendment grants a defendant “a fair opportunity to secure counsel of his own choice" and that the government “would undermine the value of that right by taking from Luis the ability to use the funds she needs to pay for her chosen attorney.” In short, the defendant must be permitted to pay her preferred lawyer with untainted funds.
You can read the Slate story here. You can also read the SCotUS blog analysis of the case here. You can access all the documents filed in the case here.
UPDATE 3/31: Amy Howe, of the SCOTUS blog, has published an analysis of the opinion here. Bloomberg Law has a 3 minute clip on the case here.