U.S. Supreme Court

High Court Avoids ‘Chaos of Constitutional Proportions’ in PD Delay Case

  • Print.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that delays caused by public defenders do not count against the state for purposes of speedy trial rights.

The court’s 7-2 opinion said the state is not responsible for choices by court-appointed counsel from the public defender’s office, SCOTUSblog reports.

Delays should be attributed to the defense unless there is a complete breakdown of the public defender system, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. She noted that lawyers for Michael Brillon, held without bail for three years, had requested delays, Reuters reports.

During oral arguments in January, a lawyer for the state of Vermont had argued that a contrary ruling would produce “chaos of constitutional proportions.”

The decision (PDF) is Vermont v. Brillon.

Corrected at 10:38 a.m. Tuesday to note that it was the lawyer for the state of Vermont who argued.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.