In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Assistance of Counsel
A criminal defendant's right to an attorney also means that if the defendant cannot afford an attorney, in almost all instances the government will appoint one to handle the case, at no cost to the defendant.
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), is the decision of our United States Supreme Court in which the Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys.
The Sixth Amendment "assistance of counsel" clause has been interpreted to mean that the right is to have effective counsel (i.e. "adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977)).
This speedy trial clause in the Sixth Amendment is intended to ensure that criminal defendants are not in custody awaiting an outcome to the charges against them an unreasonably lengthy time prior to a fair trial. Our Supreme Court has not determined a specific length of time that is too long as an automatic Sixth Amendment violation of the guarantee to a speedy trial. Rather, the Court has adopted the case-by-case approach whereby it will look at each situation and rule on the specific circumstances in each case.
Access to Courts
The Supreme Court has held that "the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). Nevertheless, Bounds "did not create an abstract, freestanding right to a law library." Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996). Instead, prison officials must provide inmates with "meaningful access to the courts," Bounds, 430 U.S. at 824. Providing a law library in prison is one way to comply with this obligation. Bounds says if the person was represented by counsel, that complies with the obligation, too.
Refusal of Counsel
If the person refuses court-appointed counsel in the government's attempt satisfy the Sixth Amendment right to counsel that person has no alternative and is not able to argue denial of the right to access to the courts. Wilson v. Blankenship, 163 F.3d 1284, 1290-91.
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