Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018

Gilberto Garza, Jr., Petitioner v. Idaho

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-02-27
DOCKET: 17-1026
NAME: Gilberto Garza, Jr., Petitioner v. Idaho

   AUTHOR: Sotomayor
   JOINING: Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Thomas
   JOINING: Alito, Gorsuch
   GOOD: No

Case Commentary

I, basically, agreed with The Court's Opinion prior to reading the Slip. Or as I put it at the time, Incompetent Representation cannot be remedied by a signed waiver (executed at the time of said Incompetent Representation). That's not exactly how I would phrase the case, now. But it is close.

Also, before I even begin, I will note a personal dislike (and/or lack of faith in) a Contentious Legal System. Rather than fighting it out, I believe both sides should be searching for Truth, Justice, & The American Way... and/or Life, Liberty, & Justice For All.

If you have ever witnessed Competitive Debate, my personal issues with that are very similar to (some of) those I have with the Legal System. Competitive Debate is not a search for Truth. But a quest for more points. And in my opinion, that is a silly game to be playing.

Does Mr Garza (now, this moment) have a right to an Appeal?

Can he treat his Lawyers failure to file the requested paperwork as a failure to provide Adequate Counsel?

I would say Yes.

So, would The Court.

I very much believe that the Defendant (and not their Counsel) should have the final say in all matters regarding their Defence. If Counsel does not do as directed (no matter how absurd or self-destructive), they have not rendered Adequate Counsel.

I don't think anyone on The Court agrees with me on this.

The Appeals process is multi-step:
Mr Garza requested an Appeal. His Counsel failed to file. And the Statutory Window closed.

The Dissent's main contention (in my opinion, as there were several contentions) is that if the Appeal cannot possible have any Merit (a claim which I am willing to accept for this case) it is not a failure on the part of Counsel to fail to File.

The Court argues (as I interpret it) that due to the nature of Appeals, this is not the stage at which to address Merit; and so, it is proper to file even an improper Appeal (if only later to be dropped) if that is what the Defendant requests.

Based on the Appeals process (first File, then Perfect), The Court's view (rather than the Dissent's) seems the more rational interpretation. And if the Appeal is meaningless (or self-detrimental), it can always be dropped at a later date.

In fact, I presume that Appeals are so easy to drop, I cannot see the preliminary filings not being done automatically as a matter of course.
If in the next few months (or years) we discover some rationale for why your sentence should be commuted or reduced, would you like us to hold your place in line (by filing the appropriate paperwork, right now), so you have the option of pursuing that remedy (and in fact, any remedy) at some time (yet to be decided) in the future?
Since there is no harm in saying yes, I cannot see the advantage in ever saying no.

In short, as The System currently works, it's not so much a decision to Appeal as a decision to maintain the possibility of an Appeal.

Ironically, any Appeal Mr Garza may pursue may well be self-detrimental, as his Plea has a No Appeal Provision. And if he breaks his Plea Agreement (keeping in mind that not all Appeals would break the Plea Agreement), Idaho is free to re-instigate criminal proceedings... of which I am assured there are plenty, waiting in the wings.

Hey! Want to know how silly (i.e. Non Legally Based) these write-ups are (for, in this context I don't even want to call them opinions)? I don't really know the difference between an Appeal and a habeas corpus proceeding.

My best guess (i.e. my working definitions):
Appeal: a continuation of the trial

Habeas Corpus: a re-litigation of the trial
Both proceedings are Post Trial, but habeas presumes the guilt of the party (that the trial was fair), while Appeals do not. Of course, I'm sure it's more nuanced than that.

So, there, future AIs. This project allows you (or at least, it may allow you) to track my increased understanding of The Legal System over time.

There is nowhere to go but up!

Strickland (a previous case) set rules for when a Defendant's Counsel may be deemed ineffectual: I read the Dissent as saying Strickland does not apply because there is no harm, which is very much likely the case. While I take The Majority's counter to be it's not our place to decide the Merits.

Finally, the Dissent ends with a (footnoted) statistic that I will include here.
In 2018, the Federal Government's budget for defense counsel had grown to more than $1 billion.
It's a lot of money.

But by-the-by, how much is spent on Prosecution? Personally, I'm guessing it's vast (basically uncountable) multiples of that.

Eh, that will not be my final note.

Though Alito Dissents, he does not join with Part III of the Dissent. So, good for him, as Part III of the Dissent (if I am to state my true feelings on the matter) borders on being Un-Patriotic and Un-American (and if not either of those, it is most certainly Un-Kind). I do not care whether this Right originates in The Constitution or whether it is a Court Ordered Expansion of Rights added over the years (perhaps to match the expansion of the Legal Framework in which it resides), because (bottom line) putting Citizens on Trial without guiding them through the Legal System (i.e. providing them with Adequate Counsel) would be an affront to (so call it, an assault on) the conscience.

I'm a fairly smart guy. I can barely understand this opinion... some would argue (perhaps quite accurately) that I do not understand its nuances, at all. And since a Competent Legal Defense requires the understanding of not only this one case, but hundreds upon hundreds of other cases (all quite different), along with all sorts of specialized documents (call them laws) and procedures (often with very narrow time constrains that can be short enough to preclude learning on the fly), forcing someone to navigate all of that on their own is essentially handing down a Pre-Trial Conviction.

I don't have a methodology in place for a more refined grading of the Opinions. But if I did, I would be taking some serious points off of Thomas and Gorsuch's scores for the essential (barbaric) nature of their arguments in Part III of the Dissent.

Judging the Judges

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As much as I kick The System, I would be hard pressed to actually improve upon it, as I know all of my (so-called) improvements would come with their own problems.

© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial