Apologies to Glenn Reynolds, but they said if I voted for a Republican in 2008, I’d wind up with an autocratic administration determined to wipe out civil rights — and they were right! The Obama administration has argued for the end of the Michigan v Jackson ruling that requires police to provide an attorney for a suspect once one has been requested. They argue that the benefits are “meagre,” as the Telegraph puts it:
The effort to sweep aside the 23-year-old Michigan vs Jackson ruling is one of several moves by the new government to have dismayed civil rights groups. …
The Michigan vs Jackson ruling in 1986 established that, if a defendants have a lawyer or have asked for one to be present, police may not interview them until the lawyer is present.
Any such questioning cannot be used in court even if the suspect agrees to waive his right to a lawyer because he would have made that decision without legal counsel, said the Supreme Court.
However, in a current case that seeks to change the law, the US Justice Department argues that the existing rule is unnecessary and outdated.
The sixth amendment of the US constitution protects the right of criminal suspects to be “represented by counsel”, but the Obama regime argues that this merely means to “protect the adversary process” in a criminal trial.
The Justice Department, in a brief signed by Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, said the 1986 decision “serves no real purpose” and offers only “meagre benefits”.
Can you imagine what the outcry over this would have been had President John McCain, or for that matter President George W. Bush, had tried this? Newspapers around the nation would have decried his assault on civil liberties. PFAW and the ACLU would have staged rallies in every American city, and they would have called Bush, McCain, or any other Republican a fascist for denying legal counsel to people under police questioning. We’d have an endless line of appearances on television news programs from people who got coerced into false confessions after having been denied counsel.
Instead, with Obama in office, we have to discover this from a British newspaper. The only other coverage seen on this side of the pond has been from SCOTUS Blog (neutral analysis) and the HuffPo’s reprint of an AP report.
Rolling back Michigan v Jackson would be a mistake. People who ask for an attorney should get one without further questioning. Americans have the right to counsel at all stages of the process, not just in court, as Obama argues. The adversarial process begins with arrest and interrogation, not when people first face a judge. While Miranda has been turned into a fetish, Michigan actually does the work Miranda promises — to get people counsel when they most need it. That does serve a real purpose, despite what Obama argues.
Wasn’t Barack Obama supposed to be a Constitutional scholar? Was that in the How To Dismantle school of thought?