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The Champion

May 2016 , Page 10 

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NACDL News: U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Sixth Amendment Right to Defense Counsel of One’s Choice

By Ivan J. Dominguez and Ezra Dunkle-Polier

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In a widely awaited decision concerning the right to counsel and the government’s pretrial seizure of a defendant’s assets, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 30, 2016, that a defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to use her own “innocent” property to pay a reasonable fee for the assistance of counsel. The issue arose in Luis v. United States (14-419) when a grand jury charged Sila Luis with paying kickbacks and engaging in other crimes related to health care.

In an opinion by Justice Breyer, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, the Court found that “the pretrial restraint of legitimate, untainted assets needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment.” The plurality explained that the constitutional line they have drawn — distinguishing between tainted funds and innocent funds needed to pay for counsel — should prove workable. “We concede, as Justice Kennedy points out … that money is fungible; and sometimes it will

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  • Media inquiries: Contact NACDL's Director of Public Affairs & Communications Ivan J. Dominguez at 202-465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org
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