Obama Looks to Limit Right to Counsel

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2009 2:48 PM CDT
A jail cell.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Obama administration is pushing for a Supreme Court decision that would curtail the right of criminal suspects to counsel, the AP reports. At issue is a 1986 ruling that prevents police from questioning suspects unless a lawyer is present. The Justice Department says the restriction “serves no real purpose,” because suspects can always choose to remain silent, and offers only “meager benefits.”

Justices could decide today whether to hear the issue. Civil-liberties advocates are livid over Obama’s perceived betrayal. “Your right to assistance of counsel can be undermined,” one lawyer said, when going up against an interrogator who is “much more sophisticated than you are.” A group of former judges and prosecutors also opposes the move, saying the accepted procedure is well codified.