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Two Rights to Counsel

41 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013 Last revised: 10 May 2013

Josh Bowers

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2013

Abstract

This forthcoming essay argues that there is not one constitutionally recognized right to counsel, but two. There is a right to legal counsel and a right to extralegal counsel. The right to legal counsel applies principally to the formal domain of the criminal trial; the right to extralegal counsel applies exclusively to the informal domains of the plea bargain and guilty plea. To understand the distinction, consider the Court’s recent decisions in Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye. An underappreciated feature of these rulings is the manner by which the Court has encouraged (and perhaps even constitutionally required) counsel to bargain “creatively” around substantive law. Specifically, the Court has signaled that prosecutors and defense attorneys — not legislators — are the system’s real policy makers, and that, accordingly, effective assistance of counsel ought to be measured against their conception of the “sound administration of criminal justice.” In the process, the Court has almost re-conceptualized the right to counsel as a constitutional entitlement to skirt legislative command — an entitlement that Justice Scalia derisively has termed a threat to the legality principle. It does not follow, however, that the Court’s two-track jurisprudential approach is misguided. Whereas the approach continues a troubling trend away from legislative and lay influence over criminal justice and toward professional executive control, it also may constitute the pragmatic (and even normatively compelled) best course in a second-best system of criminal justice that depends procedurally on horse trading and substantively on mandatory sentencing statutes that ill serve any defensible conception of proportionality or crime control.

Keywords: Plea-bargaining, guilty pleas, ineffective assistance of counsel, right to counsel, Gideon v. Wainwright, Lafler v. Cooper, Missouri v. Frye, defense counsel, defense attorneys, prosecutors

Suggested Citation

Bowers, Josh, Two Rights to Counsel (May 1, 2013). Washington and Lee Law Review, Forthcoming; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2013-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2262474

Josh Bowers (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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