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Supreme Court hears oral arguments in right to counsel case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday heard oral arguments in United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez [Duke case backgrounder; merit briefs], where the court will decide whether a defendant is guaranteed a new trial under the Sixth Amendment right to counsel if a trial court improperly denies a person their choice of counsel. In the case, Gonzalez-Lopez wanted to bring in his own out-of-state attorney to represent him on federal drug trafficking charges, but was denied by the trial court in Missouri. On appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated the conviction [ruling, PDF] and remanded the case for a new trial, ruling that the district court should have provided a reason for denying the defendant his choice of counsel.

While Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared ready to give deference to a defendant's right to counsel of their choosing, other justices expressed concern with the consequences of allowing a mistrial due to such a defect, an outcome which the attorney representing the United States said would decrease judicial efficiency and would waste taxpayer resources. AP has more.

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