The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Cooper and Frye. The links will take you to a transcript of the oral argument. The pivotal issue is the performance of the lawyers during the plea bargaining process.. In the Frye case , Mr. Frye’s lawyer did not advise him of a plea bargain offer where Frye could have plead guilty to a misdemeanor and serve 90 days in jail. Instead , Frye took a thee year sentence to serve with a felony now on his record. In Cooper , the criminal defense lawyer gave the defendant some really bad advice on the issue of intent to commit murder. During oral argument , the court struggled with the proper remedy. The court has held that plea bargaining is a critical stage of the litigation for Sixth Amendment purposes.
A more interesting side note is that of the low price lawyer who writes letters to those accused of a crime and offers to provide a legal service for the sum of $400.00. Simple Justice addressed the issue of lawyers whose business model is take the bucks and plead them or force them to plead guilty . I witnessed one such event today. Cheap lawyer says to assistant district attorney " It’s a DUI first offense right and I want to move the case for plea". No negotiation . No discussion with the assistant district attorney. Probably no review of the warrant or video. Nothing . NADA. Zilch. The lawyer took the bucks and made a rapid plea bargain at the client’s expense..What regulates lawyers when they have no intention of giving an accused a defense. Those issues will not be addressed and will be the dirty little secret in the underworld of criminal justice. Yet the problem exists. I guess it is the old adage " you get what you pay for".
Justice Scalia said trying to solve either problem would leave the courts “in the soup,” as Mr. Cooper had received a fair trial and Mr. Frye had entered a valid guilty plea. Justice Scalia is dead wrong in his comments. First , Frye did not enter a knowing plea of guilt and Cooper did not have a lawyer that knew the basics of an attempt to commit murder. Scalia concluded the trial was fair. Not hardly.
Now what will the Supreme Court do when the lawyers blew it ?