Singer v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

“Petitioner wished to waive his jury trial, but the Government would not consent to it.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. “A defendant’s only constitutional right concerning the method of trial is to an impartial trial by jury.” There is “no constitutional impediment to conditioning a waiver of this right on the consent of the prosecuting and the trail judge.”

Facts of the case

Question

Whether the Constitution gives a defendant in a federal criminal case the right to waive a jury trial whenever he believes such action to be in his best interest, regardless of whether the prosecution and the court are willing to acquiesce in the waiver.

Answer

No. The Supreme Court of the United States first dismissed the petitioner’s argument that there is a correlative right to trial by jury to have his cased decided by a judge alone if he considers such a trial to be to his advantage. The Supreme Court found no evidence of such a right in common law, and so found Rule 23(a) to be valid. The Supreme Court did concede that under Patton v. United States, a defendant can in some instances waive his right to a trial by jury.
Turning to the specific issue of conditions of acceptance, the Supreme Court first stated that the ability to waive a constitutional right does not ordinarily carry with it the right to insist upon the opposite of that right. Further, the Supreme Court noted that it has long been accepted that the waiver of constitutional rights can be subjected to reasonable procedural regulations. If the prosecutor or judge refuses to consent, the result is simply that the defendant is subject to an impartial trial by jury-the very thing that the Constitution guarantees him.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court of the United States found that defendant’s claims were without merit. The Court found no evidence that the common law recognized that defendants had the right to choose between a court and a jury trial. The Court further held that Fed. R. Crim. P. 23 set forth a reasonable procedure governing attempted waivers of jury trials and concluded that the Constitution did not afford defendant the right to waive a jury trial when he believed that action was in his best interest in the absence of the consent of the prosecution and the court. As such, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

  • Case Brief: 1965
  • Petitioner: Singer
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Warren Court

Citation: 380 US 24 (1965)
Argued: Nov 18, 1964
Decided: Mar 1, 1965