The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court will be in Washington D.C. tomorrow to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Justice Mark Cady will be discussing the problem with some Americans being denied their sixth amendment right to a lawyer — in American courtrooms.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley invited Justice Cady to testify. “For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has found that the Constitution requires federal, state and local governments to provide legal assistance and in some cases, that’s not provided,” Grassley says. “From that standpoint, people’s constitutional rights are being violated.”
Grassley, a Republican, is chairman of the committee and is developing legislation which he’s calling a victims’ reform agenda that would deal with this and other problems in the legal process. “Compliance appears to be particularly bad at the state and local level,” Grassley says. “As a result, potentially innocent individuals plead guilty to crimes. They also then accrue a criminal record that causes them adverse consequences, including difficulty finding a job.”
Anyone who’s ever seen a crime show on TV hears when the suspect is cuffed and taken away, the arresting officer will read the Miranda rights, which includes the line: “You have a right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” Grassley says some courtrooms are outright denying to provide the service.
“People are waking up to the fact that misdemeanor after misdemeanor after misdemeanor, pleading guilty and then eventually it becomes a felony,” Grassley says. “You can have a criminal record fairly easy and do it without counsel and consequently, get yourself into a big hole.”
The hearing is scheduled for 9 A.M./Central time on Wednesday and will explore the problem in detail and look at potential solutions.