Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure

By Dennis, Corey M. | Suffolk University Law Review, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure


Dennis, Corey M., Suffolk University Law Review


Criminal Defendant Erroneously Denied First-Choice Counsel Entitled to Automatic Reversal of Conviction--United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 126 S. Ct. 2557 (2006)

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence." (1) The United States Supreme Court has interpreted this guarantee to protect the right of a defendant who does not require appointed counsel to choose who will represent him. (2) In United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, (3) the Supreme Court, faced with a circuit split, considered whether a trial court's erroneous deprivation of a defendant's choice of counsel entitles him to an automatic reversal of his conviction. (4) Justice Scalia, writing for a 5-4 Court, held that the denial of a defendant's right to choose counsel violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights regardless of whether prejudice is shown. (5)

On January 7, 2003, Cuauhtemoc Gonzalez-Lopez (Gonzalez-Lopez) was charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. (6) His family hired local attorney John Fahle to represent him at an evidentiary hearing before a magistrate judge, but Gonzalez-Lopez hired California attorney Joseph Low. (7) The magistrate judge initially permitted Low and Fahle to work together on the condition that Low would immediately file a motion for admission pro hac vice. (8) The judge revoked Low's admission pro hac vice, however, when Low violated a local court rule restricting the cross-examination of a witness to one attorney. (9)

Soon after, Gonzalez-Lopez informed Fahle that he wanted Low to be his sole attorney. (10) Low subsequently filed a second request to be admitted pro hac vice, which the district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit both rejected. (11) Meanwhile, Fahle filed a motion to withdraw and a complaint against Low claiming that Low violated the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) by contacting Gonzalez-Lopez when Fahle represented him. (12) The district court permitted Fahle to withdraw from the case but did not allow Low to represent Gonzalez-Lopez, reasoning that Low violated the Rules. (13)

On May 2, 2003, Gonzalez-Lopez went to trial and was represented by yet another attorney, Karl Dickhaus. (14) Dickhaus requested permission for Low to sit with him at the counsel table, but the district court denied the request, ordering Low to sit in the audience and to have no contact with Dickhaus. (15) The jury found Gonzalez-Lopez guilty. (16) The Eighth Circuit reversed the conviction, however, reasoning that the district court erred in interpreting the Rules as prohibiting Low's conduct and that this error violated Gonzalez-Lopez's Sixth Amendment right to paid counsel of his choosing. (17) On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the Eighth Circuit, holding that a trial court's erroneous deprivation of a criminal defendant's choice of counsel automatically entitles him to reversal of his conviction with no need to show prejudice. (18)

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a non-indigent criminal defendant's right to choose his own counsel. (19) That right, however, is qualified and may be denied entirely. (20) For example, a criminal defendant desiring representation must choose an advocate who is a lawyer, who is qualified to practice in the relevant jurisdiction, who he can afford, and who does not have a nonwaivable conflict of interest. (21)

Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the harmless-error rule, provides that "[a]ny error, defect, irregularity, or variance which does not affect substantial rights shall be disregarded." (22) In Neder v. United States, (23) the United States Supreme Court recognized that there is "a limited class of fundamental constitutional errors that 'defy analysis by "harmless error" standards'" and "are so intrinsically harmful as to require automatic reversal . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.