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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Point to Importance of Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a speech about criminal defense attorneys in her recent visit to the University of Houston Law Center, expressing just how important it is that criminal defense lawyers in particular have the skills and experience to be true advocates. Sotomayor—along with other justices such as Kagan—have specifically made statements to the effect of criminal defendants frequently not receiving the representation they are entitled to, especially at the Supreme Court level.

Justice Sotomayor—being the only former trial judge on the bench—is known for her frustrations with the criminal justice system, and the fact that judges themselves, throughout the judicial system, rarely come from a criminal defense or civil rights background, which negatively affects the level of diversity we have in our criminal justice system.

2016 Study

Sadly, this isn’t just a matter of opinion from several U.S. Supreme Court justices: A 2016 study out of Harvard Law indicates that the high court has shifted over the last four decades, and that shift is in favor of the prosecution, whereby there is an increasingly large gap between criminal defendants and the rest of the bar, including those representing the prosecution. This results in a general criminal justice system that brushes aside the chance to establish and reinforce constitutional and civil rights of criminal defendants.

The Plea Bargaining Concern

The study—and other articles like it—examines the rise of ante-judicial prosecutorial experience, the rise of plea bargaining as a prosecutorial tool for shaping the Court’s agenda, and the rise of a sharp advocacy gap between criminal defendants and the rest of the bar, including skilled advocates for the prosecution.

Of particular concern to criminal defense attorneys like us who primarily defend clients in Florida’s courts is the fact that plea bargaining—and how frequently it is used and relied upon by prosecutors—is determining which constitutional issues reach the courts in the first place (and thus those that actually get reviewed in court). The result is prosecutors effectively molding what cases head to court, and thus the terms of how constitutional rights are applied.

Unfortunately, Florida is, in part, a reflection of this issue: Our criminal justice system arguably causes widespread violation of constitutional rights and unprecedented levels of incarceration. Florid also continues to practice the death penalty, all while leading the nation in having the highest number of exonerations from death row.  Plea bargaining is pushed even in spite of overly-harsh mandatory minimum sentences and lengthy prison terms for most-all crimes, all of which fly in the face of promoting criminal justice reform.

Highly Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing Florida and Massachusetts Clients

If you are facing criminal charges, you want to ensure that the attorney representing you and providing you with legal advice is experienced. The Baez Law Firm is known for its excellence in criminal defense and civil rights representation. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

Resources:

law.com/nationallawjournal/sites/nationallawjournal/2018/01/29/sotomayor-renews-call-for-experienced-criminal-defense-advocates/

papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2794208

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