United States v. Gouveia

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: The D&B Corporation

DOCKET NO.: 83-128
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 467 US 180 (1984)
ARGUED: Mar 20, 1984
DECIDED: May 29, 1984

Mr. Andrew L. Frey - on behalf of petitioner
Charles P. Diamond - on behalf of respondents
Joel Levine - on behalf of respondents

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Gouveia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 20, 1984 in United States v. Gouveia

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Frey, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

In this case the Court has under review a judgment of the Ninth Circuit reversing respondents' convictions for brutal murders committed while they were inmates at the Federal correctional institution in Lompos, California, and ordering dismissal of the indictments against them on the ground that they were denied their Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel when they were held in administrative detention for more than 90 days after the killings, when that detention was, in the court's view, based in part on the pendency of a criminal investigation by the FBI for the murders.

Now essentially while there are differences in the case, the two groups of cases, the Gouveia group and the Mills group, followed a similar pattern.

There was a murder.

Either immediately after the murder or within several weeks thereafter the respondents who were inmates at the prison were confined in administrative detention.

Within several weeks of that prison disciplinary hearings were held and they were adjudicated to have violated the prison regulations against murder.

They were then confined in the administrative detention unit until the time they were indicted, some months later.

Warren E. Burger:

Were they free to communicate with the outside?

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

They were free to make phone calls to the outside, to lawyers or to others.

In fact, two of the individuals involved called the public defender and asked for their assistance and were told that they couldn't because they had not yet been indicted.

So they were free to communicate with the outside world, including communicating with lawyers.

They were eventually indicted, and at that point they were transferred for trial.

In the Mills case, motions to dismiss were made and although the ground that is now the issue before the Court was not raised by respondents Mills and Pierce the District Court in granting the motion said that their right to counsel had been denied and dismissed the indictment on that ground, among others.

The government took an interlocutory appeal.

A panel of the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for trial.

In the Gouveia case, the District Court denied the motion for relief in which all the grounds that had been relied on by the District Court in Mills were raised by the Gouveia group of defendants.

And in Mills there was one trial after the remand from the Court of Appeals; the defendants were convicted and appealed.

In Gouveia there was a trial that resulted in a hung jury as to the present respondents, an acquittal of co-defendant Flores, and an acquittal of respondent Reynoso on one lesser count.

Those defendants also appealed.

The two cases were consolidated and heard by an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, which held that the convictions should be reversed and the indictments dismissed.

Now as we see it, the case presents one primary and one secondary issue.

The primary issue is whether respondents' right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment attached prior to the time of the commencement of judicial proceedings against them by indictment.

If this Court disagrees with the Ninth Circuit and finds, as we urge, that the right to counsel did not attach prior to that time, that would be the end of the case.

If the Court agrees with the Ninth Circuit that their right to counsel attached, then there would be the further question as to whether there was a sufficient showing of prejudice.

Thurgood Marshall:

Excuse me, Mr. Frey.

The time of indictment is the time for appointment?

Mr. Andrew L. Frey:

In this particular case, the time of indictment is the time that we say that the right of appointment of counsel attaches, the right to assistance of counsel and for indigents appointment of counsel.

Now given the time limitations, I'd like to focus my attention in my opening argument on the primary issue of the attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Now the first and most obvious point about the attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is that it does derive from the Sixth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment says in any criminal prosecution the accused shall enjoy the right to the assistance of counsel.