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Legal Representation, Bad Judgment Or Obstruction Of Justice: No Bright Line
By Barry Tarlow
RICO Report columns.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that “Lawyers in criminal cases are necessities, not luxuries.” United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984), Id., at 653, quoting Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344 (1963). It is, by now, undisputed that the assistance of a defense lawyer is “an essential component of the administration of criminal justice.” ABA Standards, The Defense Function Std. 4-1.2(a). The assistance required is more than merely passive participation; the constitution requires that counsel zealously advocate the interests of the accused. Lane v. Richards, 957 F.2d 363, 365 (7th Cir. 1992). Unfortunately, some prosecutors have been unable to distinguish between aggressive legal representation, mistakes in judgment, and obstruction of justice. One reason may be that there is no bright line to trigger an alarm when the boundaries are crossed.
Prior to enactment of the Victim and Witness Protection Act, threats to the integrity of court process were proscribed by 18 U
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