SCOTUS Overturns Michigan v. Jackson

The ACS Blog reports on more big news out of the SCOTUS yesterday:

The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned precedent on the rights of criminal suspects in custody. In a 5-4 ruling, the high court overturned a 1986 case that barred police from interrogating suspects after they requested a right to counsel. Writing for the majority in Montejo v. Louisiana, Justice Antonin Scalia said the 1986 ruling on Sixth Amendment right to counsel provided suspects only “marginal benefits.” Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 1986 majority opinion in Michigan v. Jackson, filed a dissent in Montejo. Stevens said the majority’s decision “can only diminish the public’s confidence in the reliability and fairness of our system of justice.”

Justice Stevens, in an unusual move, read his dissent aloud from the bench.  This rare move might be attributed to the fact that the Michigan v. Jackson opinion was written by Justice Stevens, the only current justice who was on the court at the time.  Here’s the beginning of his scathing dissent:

JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE SOUTER and JUSTICE GINSBURG join, and with whom JUSTICE BREYER joins, except for footnote 5, dissenting.  Today the Court properly concludes that the Louisiana Supreme Court’s parsimonious reading of our decision in Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U. S. 625 (1986), is indefensible.Yet the Court does not reverse. Rather, on its own initia-tive and without any evidence that the longstanding SixthAmendment protections established in Jackson have caused any harm to the workings of the criminal justice system, the Court rejects Jackson outright on the groundthat it is “untenable as a theoretical and doctrinal mat-ter.” Ante, at 6. That conclusion rests on a misinterpreta-tion of Jackson’s rationale and a gross undervaluation ofthe rule of stare decisis. The police interrogation in thiscase clearly violated petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.


One response to “SCOTUS Overturns Michigan v. Jackson

  1. “Overruled,” I think, not “overturned.” An appellate court overturns the judgment of a lower court, but overrules its own precedents.

    And ACS is wrong to characterize the case as dealing with the rights of suspects “in custody.” Jackson was a Sixth Amendment case and applied regardless of custodial status.

    The impact of this decision remains to be seen (my hunch is that it will impact very few cases).

    Note that the mandate in the case does not necessarily reinstate the conviction; Montejo is invited on remand to develop a Fifth Amendment argument based on Edwards v. Arizona (which apparently remains in full flower).

    Also, if you read the opinions, be sure to check out the Alito concurrence and Stevens dissent their late-term sniping.

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