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Marshall v. Rodgers

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: April 1, 2013
Case #: 12–382
Per Curiam.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-382_4h25.pdf

Constitutional Law: The “conclusion of the California courts that there was no Sixth Amendment violation is not contrary to 'clearly established Federal law', as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," 28 U.S.C. §2254(d).

Respondent waived his right to counsel on three separate occasions and opted to represent himself pro se. After a jury found Respondent guilty he requested counsel to assist with filing a motion for a new trial. The court denied the request for counsel and a new trial. The California Court of Appeals affirmed. Subsequently, Respondent filed a federal habeas petition alleging that the California court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The District Court denied the petition. The Court of Appeals reversed holding that the trial court violated Respondent’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

In a per curiam opinion the Supreme Court granted certiorari, reversed and remanded. The Court held the “conclusion of the California courts that there was no Sixth Amendment violation is not contrary to 'clearly established Federal law', as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. §2254(d). There is a tension between the Sixth Amendment’s “right to counsel at critical stages of the criminal process” and the constitutional “right to proceed without counsel when [a criminal defendant] voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so.” There is no “clearly established federal law” to guide this issue. Further, circuit precedent may not be used to refine principles of the Supreme Court into specific legal rules. California’s approach at resolving the tension is not contrary or unreasonable in light of the general standards established by Court precedent.