“Justices’ Ruling Expands Rights of Accused in Plea Bargains” @ NY Times

Posted on March 21, 2012

Adam Liptak — March 21, 2012: “WASHINGTON — Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a pair of 5-to-4 decisions.

Because about 95 percent of criminal convictions arise from guilty pleas, the decisions represent a vast expansion of judicial supervision of the criminal justice system.

“Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedywrote for the majority. “The right to adequate assistance of counsel cannot be defined or enforced without taking account of the central role plea bargaining takes in securing convictions and determining sentences.”

Justice Antonin Scalia took the unusual step of summarizing his dissents from the bench. “Today’s opinions open a whole new field of constitutionalized criminal procedure: federal plea-bargaining law,” he said.

Scholars who welcomed that development agreed about its significance.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in these two cases constitute the single greatest revolution in the criminal justice process since Gideon v. Wainwright provided indigents the right to counsel,” said Wesley M. Oliver, a law professor at Widener University………………………………….”

Read more at NY Times.