Supreme Court Ruling: Lawyers Must do Better with Plea Bargains

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Wednesday March 21st, to extend Sixth Amendment protections to the plea process and said that defendants could sue their lawyers for incompetent assistance if the plea offers are mishandled. When offered less prison time for convictions and guilty pleas  by the prosecution, defense lawyers must do a competent job advising and informing their clients of the deal. The ruling was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The biggest dissenter is Judge Antonin Scalia, claiming:

“The court today embraces the sporting chance theory of criminal law, in which the state functions like a conscientious casino operator, giving each player a fair chance to beat the house, that is, serve less time than the law says he deserves. And when a player is excluded from the tables, his constitutional rights have been violated,” Scalia said. “I do not subscribe to that theory. No one should, least of all justices of the Supreme Court.” (usatoday)

Justice Kennedy was joined by the court’s four liberals, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Scalia was joined by Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Read the decisions:

3/21/12 – Lafler v. Cooper & 3/21/12 – Missouri v. Frye

Follow all of the Supreme Court decisions at


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