United States v. Morrison

Citation449 U.S. 361,66 L.Ed.2d 564,101 S.Ct. 665
Decision Date13 January 1981
Docket NumberNo. 79-395,79-395
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. Hazel MORRISON
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Syllabus

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 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.

Peter Buscemi, Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

Salvatore J. Cucinotta, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

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 she cooperated but would face a stiff jail term if she did not. Respondent declined to cooperate and immediately notified her attorney. The agents visited respondent again in the absence of counsel, but at no time did respondent agree to cooperate with them, incriminate herself, or supply any in- formation pertinent to her case. Contrary to the agents' advice, respondent continued to rely upon the services of the attorney whom she had retained.

Respondent subsequently moved to dismiss the indictment with prejudice on the ground that the conduct of the agents had violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The motion contained no allegation that the claimed violation had prejudiced the quality or effectiveness of respondent's legal representation; nor did it assert that the behavior of the agents had induced her to plead guilty, had resulted in the prosecution having a stronger case against her, or had any other adverse impact on her legal position. The motion was based solely upon the egregious behavior of the agents, which was described as having "interfered" in some unspecified way with respondent's right to counsel. This interference, unaccompanied by any allegation of adverse effect, was urged as a sufficient basis for the requested disposition.

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.1 On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the judgment of the District Court was reversed. The appellate court concluded that respondent's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated and that whether or not any tangible effect upon respondent's representation had been demonstrated or alleged, the appropriate remedy was dismissal of the indictment with prejudice. 602 F.2d 529 (1979). We granted the United States' petition for certiorari to consider whether this extraordinary relief was appropriate in the absence of some adverse consequence to the representation re- spondent received or to the fairness of the proceedings leading to her conviction. 448 U.S. 906, 100 S.Ct. 3048, 65 L.Ed.2d 1135. We reverse.

The United States initially urges that absent some showing of prejudice, there could be no Sixth Amendment violation to be remedied. Because we agree with the United States, however, that the dismissal of the indictment was error in any event, we shall assume, without deciding, that the Sixth Amendment was violated in the circumstances of this case.

The Sixth Amendment provides that an accused shall enjoy the right "to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." This right, fundamental to our system of justice is meant to assure fairness in the adversary criminal process. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344, 83 S.Ct. 792, 796, 9 L.Ed.2d 799 (1963); Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 69-70, 75-76, 62 S.Ct. 457, 464, 467, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942); Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 462-463, 58 S.Ct. 1019, 1022, 82 L.Ed. 1461 (1938). Our cases have accordingly been responsive to proved claims that governmental conduct has rendered counsel's assistance to the defendant ineffective. Moore v. Illinois, 434 U.S. 220, 98 S.Ct. 458, 54 L.Ed.2d 424 (1977); Geders v. United States, 425 U.S. 80, 96 S.Ct. 1330, 47 L.Ed.2d 592 (1976); Herring v. New York, 422 U.S. 853, 95 S.Ct. 2550, 45 L.Ed.2d 593 (1975); Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263 87 S.Ct. 1951, 18 L.Ed.2d 1178 (1967); United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 87 S.Ct. 1926, 18 L.Ed.2d 1149 (1967); Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201, 84 S.Ct. 1199, 12 L.Ed.2d 246 (1964).

At the same time and without detracting from the fundamental importance of the right to counsel in criminal cases, we have implicitly recognized the necessity for preserving society's interest in the administration of criminal justice. 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. Our relevant cases reflect this approach. In Gideon v. Wainwright, supra, the defendant was totally denied the assistance of counsel at his criminal trial. In Geders v. United States, supra, Herring v. New York, supra, and Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 53 S.Ct. 55, 77 L.Ed. 158 (1932), judicial action before or during trial prevented counsel from being fully effective. In Black v. United States, 385 U.S. 26, 87 S.Ct. 190, 17 L.Ed.2d 26 (1966), and O'Brien v. United States, 386 U.S. 345, 87 S.Ct. 1158, 18 L.Ed.2d 94 (1967), law enforcement officers improperly overheard pretrial conversations between a defendant and his lawyer. None of these deprivations, however, resulted in the dismissal of the indictment. Rather, the conviction in each case was reversed and the Government was free to proceed with a new trial. Similarly, when before trial but after the institution of adversary proceedings, the prosecution has improperly obtained incriminating information from the defendant in the absence of his counsel, the remedy characteristically imposed is not to dismiss the indictment but to suppress the evidence or to order a new trial if the evidence has been wrongfully admitted and the defendant convicted. Gilbert v. California, supra; United States v. Wade, supra; Massiah v. United States, supra. In addition, certain violations of the right to counsel may be disregarded as harmless error. Compare Moore v. Illinois, supra, 434 U.S. at 232, 98 S.Ct. at 466, with Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 23, and n. 8, 87 S.Ct. 824, 827, and n. 8, 17 L.Ed. 2d 705 (1967).

Our approach has thus been to identify...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1130 cases
  • Bucio v. Sutherland
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • 4 d5 Dezembro d5 2009
    ...constitutional violation." Satterlee v. Wolfenbarger, 374 F.Supp.2d 562, 569 (E.D.Mich. 2005) (citing United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361, 364, 101 S.Ct. 665, 66 L.Ed.2d 564 (1981)), aff'd, 453 F.3d 362 (6th Cir.2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1281, 127 S.Ct. 1832(107), 167 L.Ed.2d 322. T......
  • People v. Fultz
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 27 d1 Setembro d1 2021
  • State v. Madera
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 17 d2 Dezembro d2 1985
    ... ... Richardson, 397 [198 Conn. 98] U.S. 759, 90 S.Ct. 1441, 25 L.Ed.2d 763 (1970); Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 757, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 1473-74, 25 L.Ed.2d 747 (1970); State v. Martin, 197 ... Morrison, 449 U.S. 361, 363 n. 1, 101 S.Ct. 665, ... Page 141 ... 667, 66 L.Ed.2d 564, reh. denied, 450 ... ...
  • Schoicket v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • 2 d2 Novembro d2 2021
    ...This is not how the United States Supreme Court tells us to remedy Sixth Amendment violations. See United States v. Morrison , 449 U.S. 361, 364, 101 S.Ct. 665, 66 L.Ed.2d 564 (1981) ("Cases involving Sixth Amendment deprivations are subject to the general rule that remedies should be tailo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 2 - 2015 Contents
    • 17 d1 Agosto d1 2015
    ...640 (1986), §12:63 United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564, 96 S.Ct. 1768, 48 L.Ed.2d 212 (1976), §5:95 United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361 (1981), §15:91.3 U.S. v. North, 735 F.3d 212, 216 (C.A. 5 (Tex.), 2013), §16:38.3 United States v. Peneaux, 432 F.3d 882, 896 (8th Cir. 2005), §16......
  • Arraignment and pretrial matters
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • 30 d3 Março d3 2022
    ...to a more severe sentence at trial, the remedy must “neutralize the taint” of a constitutional violation, see United States v. Morrison , 449 U.S. 361, 365. But it must not grant a windfall to the defendant, see United States v. Mechanik , 475 U.S. 66, 72, 106 S.Ct. 938, 89 L.Ed.2d 50. If t......
  • Trial Issues
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 2 - 2021 Contents
    • 16 d1 Agosto d1 2021
    ...violates a defendant’s constitutional right to counsel when the defendant is prejudiced by the violation. United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361 (1981); Murphy v. State, 112 S.W.3d 592 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). Where the state does not learn anything from the violation that was not known bef......
  • Trial Issues
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 2 - 2015 Contents
    • 17 d1 Agosto d1 2015
    ...violates a defendant’s constitutional right to counsel when the defendant is prejudiced by the violation. United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361 (1981); Murphy v. State, 112 S.W.3d 592 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). Where the state does not learn anything from the violation that was not known bef......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT