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Supreme Court Must Uphold the Sixth Amendment

Brennan Center for Justice files a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Sixth Amendment's requirement that people are provided with counsel in a very timely manner.

February 1, 2008
For Immediate Release: January 31, 2008

Contact:  Mike Webb, 212-998-6746

Supreme Court Must Uphold the Sixth Amendment
By Requiring the Appointment of Counsel at the Time of Arraignment

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law filed a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Sixth Amendment's requirement that people charged with a crime are provided with counsel in a very timely manner.

The case before the Court, Walter Allen Rothgery v. Gillespie County, Texas, involves Walter Rothgery, who was arrested and then released on bail. Rothgery was then re-arrested and held for three weeks. However, Rothgery was innocent of the charges and would have been released if counsel had been promptly provided to him.

At issue is when is the state required to provide counsel and how is that determined? The Brennan Center's amicus brief calls on the Court to adhere to precedents set in prior Sixth Amendment cases decided by the Supreme Court that call for counsel to be provided to a defendant no later than the time of arraignment.

"The government's argument that suspects should be denied counsel until a prosecutor becomes directly involved in the case does not hold water and is contrary to Supreme Court precedent," said David Udell, Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center. "At issue is essentially whether the state can have an open-ended incarceration of an individual and we hope the Court is persuaded by our arguments."

The Brennan Center was joined by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in the amicus brief and the case will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 17, 2008. Attorneys at Arnold & Porter joined in writing the brief.

For further information, please contact Mike Webb at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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