Vermont v. Brillon - Oral Argument - January 13, 2009

Vermont v. Brillon

Media for Vermont v. Brillon

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 09, 2009 in Vermont v. Brillon

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 2009 in Vermont v. Brillon

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 08-88, Vermont v. Brillon.

Ms. Rainville.

Christina Rainville:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: There are many reasons to reverse the Vermont Supreme Court in this case.

I am going to begin by addressing four reasons as a matter of law that do not require the Court to -- to review the record.

The first is, even if we assume that the public defender is an assigned counsel -- and for the purposes of argument, I am just going to use the term "public defender".

If we assume that public defenders do little or nothing in a case, one cannot have a rule that that time is chargeable under the speedy trial right to the State because to do so creates chaos of constitutional proportions in the criminal justice system.

David H. Souter:

May I ask you a question that goes at least to one possible application of -- of your argument?

Your argument for the State, the position that you just took, would -- would apply to the period of time, as I understand it, in which the individual named, the defender named Sleigh, had been appointed to -- to represent the defendant.

And as I understand it, when this case was argued in the Supreme Court of Vermont, the State conceded that, in fact, some prejudice should be attributed and it should be held against the State that Sleigh in effect did nothing.

They said, well, don't hold it against us quite as much as you might, but, in any case, that can be held against us.

Here you don't take that position, and I -- I don't know whether it's open to you -- it seems to me that it's not open to you -- to take a different position with respect to Sleigh here than the Attorney General of Vermont did when it was before the Supreme Court of Vermont.

And I -- I have to assume that you just see it differently from the way the Attorney General did.

But would -- would you comment on -- on the position that the State took and tell me why you can take a different position here?

Christina Rainville:

Yes.

Yes, Your Honor.

The State did take the position that the eight-month period, which included the four months where Attorney Sleigh was involved, was a neutral factor.

And under the dicta in Barker, that would allow the Court to apply it against the State, although not to weigh it heavily as a -- as a neutral factor.

David H. Souter:

Yes.

Christina Rainville:

That was dicta in Barker, but controlling to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Before this Court, however, on these facts--

David H. Souter:

But it was conceded, wasn't it, in the -- in the Vermont Supreme Court?

Christina Rainville:

--It was conceded that it was a neutral time period.

David H. Souter:

Yes.

Christina Rainville:

And -- and--

David H. Souter:

Well, then, why isn't that concession binding here?

Christina Rainville:

--I think it -- it may be binding if the Court determines it's binding.

But I don't think it should be binding because this Court is considering policy that's going to affect all States and all courts.

And the issue that was raised by the National Governors Association, for example, as to whether public defenders can be State actors -- and the law is clear that they cannot -- that's an important issue.

David H. Souter:

Well, it is, but that is not an issue that is necessarily implied by the -- by the concession that the Attorney General made in the Vermont Supreme Court.

Christina Rainville:

Yes.