449 U.S. 361 (1981), 79-395, United States v. Morrison

Docket Nº:No. 79-395
Citation:449 U.S. 361, 101 S.Ct. 665, 66 L.Ed.2d 564
Party Name:United States v. Morrison
Case Date:January 13, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 361

449 U.S. 361 (1981)

101 S.Ct. 665, 66 L.Ed.2d 564

United States



No. 79-395

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 13, 1981

Argued December 10, 1980




Federal agents, aware that respondent had been indicted on federal drug charges and had retained counsel, met with her without her counsel's knowledge or permission, seeking her cooperation in a related investigation. The agents disparaged respondent's counsel and indicated that she would gain various benefits if she cooperated and would face a stiff jail term if she did not, but she declined to cooperate, and notified her attorney. The agents visited respondent again in the absence of counsel, but she did not agree to cooperate with them, nor did she incriminate herself or supply any information pertinent to her case. Subsequently, respondent moved to dismiss the indictment with prejudice on the ground that the agents' conduct violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The agents' egregious behavior was described as having "interfered" in some unspecified way with respondent's right to counsel, but it was not alleged that the claimed violation had prejudiced the quality or effectiveness of her legal representation or that the agents' conduct had any adverse impact on her legal position. The District Court denied the motion and respondent, pursuant to a prior agreement with the Government, entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of the indictment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondent's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated and that whether or not any tangible effect upon her representation had been demonstrated or alleged, the appropriate remedy was dismissal of the indictment with prejudice.

Held: Assuming, arguendo, that the Sixth Amendment was violated in the circumstances of this case, nevertheless the dismissal of the indictment was not appropriate, absent a showing of any adverse consequence to the representation respondent received or to the fairness of the proceedings leading to her conviction. Cases involving Sixth Amendment deprivations are subject to the general rule that remedies should be tailored to the injury suffered from the constitutional violation and should not unnecessarily infringe on competing interests. Absent demonstrable prejudice, or substantial threat thereof, from the violation of the Sixth Amendment, there is no basis for imposing a remedy in the criminal proceeding, which can go forward with full recognition of

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the defendant's right to counsel and to a fair trial, and dismissal of the indictment is plainly inappropriate, even though the violation may have been deliberate. Pp. 364-367.

602 F.2d 529, reversed and remanded. WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Hazel Morrison, respondent here, was indicted on two counts of distributing heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. $ 841(a)(1). She retained private counsel to represent her in the impending criminal proceedings. Thereafter, two agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, aware that she had been indicted and had retained counsel, sought to obtain her cooperation in a related investigation. They met and conversed with her without the knowledge or permission of her counsel. Furthermore, in the course of the conversation, the agents disparaged respondent's counsel, stating that respondent should think about the type of representation she could expect for the $ 200 retainer she had paid him and suggesting that she could be better represented by the public defender. In addition, the agents indicated that respondent would gain various benefits if...

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