United States v. Gouveia
Decided on May 29, 1984; 467 US 180


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Right to counsel

B. Legal Question Presented:

Are prisoners constitutionally entitled to the appointment of counsel while they are in administrative segregation and before any adversary judicial proceedings had been initiated against them?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Respondents William Gouveia, Robert Ramirez, Adolpho Reynoso, and Philip Segura were convicted of murdering a fellow inmate at a federal prison in Lompoc, Cal. Respondents Robert Mills and Richard Pierce were convicted of a later murder of another inmate at the same institution. Prison officials placed each respondent in administrative detention shortly after the murders, and they remained there for an extended period of time before they were eventually indicted on criminal charges. On appeal of respondents' convictions, the en banc Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held by divided vote that they had a Sixth Amendment right to an attorney during the period in which they were held in administrative detention before the return of indictments against them, and that because they had been denied that right, their convictions had to be overturned and their indictments dismissed."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation by Richard F. Ziegler and Charles S. Sims; and for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association by Richard J. Wilson.

Charles P. Diamond, by appointment of the Court, argued the cause for respondents Mills et al. With him on the brief were M. Randall Oppenheimer and Edwin S. Saul. Joel Levine, by appointment of the Court argued the cause for respondents Gouveia et al. and filed a brief for respondent Segura. Joseph F. Walsh, by appointment of the Court filed a brief for respondent Ramirez. Michael J. Treman, by appointment of the Court filed a brief for respondent Gouveia. Manuel U. A. Araujo filed a brief for respondent Reynoso.

Deputy Solicitor General Frey argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Trott, Carolyn F. Corwin, and John F. De Pue.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The Sixth Amendment guarantees that '[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence' ... [O]ur cases have long recognized that the right to counsel attaches only at or after the initiation of adversary judicial proceedings against the defendant...

That interpretation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is consistent not only with the literal language of the Amendment, which requires the existence of both a 'criminal prosecutio[n]' and an 'accused,' but also with the purposes which we have recognized that the right to counsel serves. We have recognized that the 'core purpose' of the counsel guarantee is to assure aid at trial, 'when the accused [is] confronted with both the intricacies of the law and the advocacy of the public prosecutor'...

Although we have extended an accused's right to counsel to certain 'critical' pretrial proceedings, we have done so recognizing that at those proceedings, 'the accused [is] confronted, just as at trial, by the procedural system, or by his expert adversary, or by both,' in a situation where the results of the confrontation 'might well settle the accused's fate and reduce the trial itself to a mere formality.'

Thus, given the plain language of the Amendment and its purpose of protecting the unaided layman at critical confrontations with his adversary, our conclusion that the right to counsel attaches at the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings 'is far from a mere formalism.' It is only at that time 'that the government has committed itself to prosecute, and only then that the adverse positions of government and defendant have solidified. It is then that a defendant finds himself faced with the prosecutorial forces of organized society, and immersed in the intricacies of substantive and procedural criminal law.'...

Thus, at bottom, the [US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal] majority's concern is that because an inmate suspected of a crime is already in prison, the prosecution may have little incentive promptly to bring formal charges against him, and that the resulting preindictment delay may be particularly prejudicial to the inmate, given the problems inherent in investigating prison crimes, such as the transient nature of the prison population and the general reluctance of inmates to cooperate. But applicable statutes of limitations protect against the prosecution's bringing stale criminal charges against any defendant and, beyond that protection, the Fifth Amendment requires the dismissal of an indictment, even if it is brought within the statute of limitations, if the defendant can prove that the Government's delay in bringing the indictment was a deliberate device to gain an advantage over him and that it caused him actual prejudice in presenting his defense. Those protections apply to criminal defendants within and without the prison walls, and we decline to depart from our traditional interpretation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in order to provide additional protections for respondents here.

We conclude that the Court of Appeals was wrong in holding that respondents were constitutionally entitled to the appointment of counsel while they were in administrative segregation and before any adversary judicial proceedings had been initiated against them."

The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Vote: 1 Pro vs. 8 Con

  • Rehnquist, W. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Burger, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Powell, L. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S.D. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J.P. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's judgment; the Supreme Court reversed and remanded in an 8-1 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.