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Faculty Blog: Luis v. United States and a Right to Counsel for the Rich

By: David M. Siegel The Sixth Amendment, which the Supreme Court has for over half a century interpreted to afford indigent criminal defendants a right to a lawyer at government expense, now also provides wealthy defendants something: protection from the government’s freezing their untainted assets (as opposed to those traceable to, or proceeds of, crime) to prevent retaining counsel of their choice. As principled—and protective of the Sixth Amendment—as this distinction may be, it reinforces something much more pernicious: there is now effectively a right of the rich to be free from impoverishment by the government, to protect their Sixth Amendment right to retain counsel of their choosing, while the identical Amendment does not provide an indigent defendant access to an actual lawyer of anyone’s choice. Luis v. United States, was quite simple: federal law permits pre-trial freezing of certain criminal defendants’ assets that are proceeds of the crime, traceable to the crime, or of equal value to either of the first categories. Ms. Luis allegedly obtained $45 million through health care-related fraud, but when indicted had only $2 million, which the government agreed was neither proceeds of nor traceable to the fraud. Freezing these funds, to satisfy what the government contended would be restitution upon conviction, would preclude her hiring counsel of her choice. If the Sixth Amendment truly conferred a right to hire counsel of one’s choice, then did it also prevent the government from vitiating this right by freezing all one’s resources with which to pay counsel? Yes, the Court found, although not for any reason that commanded a majority.

5th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Editor Blog, Fifth Amendment, New England Law Review, Police Interrogation, Policy, Privacy, property, Student Writing, Use of Force

Article Preview: One Step Forward Two Steps Back: The SJC’s Incorrect Decision in Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt Deprives Technology Users of Their Constitutional Rights

Contributing Editor: Cody Zane
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individual criminal defendants against self-incrimination. However, as the world continues to develop at such a rapid pace and technology becomes synonymous with everyday life, Fifth Amendment protections become clouded. In 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), in Commonwealth v. Galfgatt, significantly reduced Fifth Amendments protections by failing to extend these rights to the defendant, who was compelled to produce decryption keys encrypting mortgage schemes. Specifically, the SJC lowered the evidentiary burden of reasonable particularity in its forgone conclusion analysis. Additionally, the SJC failed to apply Article 12 of the Massachusetts constitution in its analysis.