Sometimes running a district court can be like a high-wire balancing act. But when it comes to ensuring the competence of defendants when they go to trial or plead guilty, the court takes on the role of a safety net.Meantime, Justice Scalia referred to Justice Ginsburg as Justice Goldberg. WHOOPS.
Our criminal-justice system depends on the exercise of, or knowing and intelligent waivers of, constitutional rights. But to engage in these activities, a defendant must first and necessarily have the abilities to understand the proceedings and to assist counsel. Because competence is the base upon which other constitutional rights balance, due process and Section 4241(a) of Title 18 of the United States Code demand that a hearing on a defendant’s competence be held whenever reasonable cause exists to believe that a defendant may not be competent to proceed to trial or to enter a guilty plea.
Here, no hearing occurred, despite evidence creating reasonable cause to believe that Appellant Andrew Wingo might not have been competent to proceed. We therefore hold that the district court did not satisfy its duty under 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a). We remand this case to the district court so that it can determine whether Wingo’s competency at the time of his guilty plea can be evaluated nunc pro tunc, and if so, for an assessment of his competency at the time of his guilty plea and sentencing. If Wingo is determined to have been incompetent, or if a nunc pro tunc evaluation cannot be made, Wingo’s conviction and sentence must be vacated, subject to the government’s right to try him should he become competent. On the other hand, if Wingo is determined to have been competent, his conviction and sentence must be affirmed.
While delivering the decision in the immigration case Kerry v. Din on Monday, Scalia listed the justices who dissented from the opinion and, instead of saying “Ginsburg,” said “Goldberg.”
Chief Justice John Roberts leaned over and whispered in his ear, to presumably notify him of the error.
“What did I say?” he asked Roberts, drawing laughter from spectators and members of the press in the courtroom.
After his colleagues told him what he said, Scalia shook his head and apologized to Ginsburg.
“Sorry about that Ruth,” he said.Scalia was of course quick to joke when Joe Klock famously messed up a bunch of names before the Supreme Court:
Arguing a case before the Supreme Court is a dream for many lawyers, a chance to shine before the nation’s highest court. But it seems attorney Joseph Klock could use a little more polish.Klock, representing Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, stumbled responding to questions during the Bush vs. Gore case Monday morning, twice referring to justices by the wrong name.First, Klock surprised everyone in the courtroom by referring to Justice John Paul Stevens as “Justice Brennan,” apparently referring to Justice William Brennan, who retired from the Supreme Court in 1990 and died in 1997.“I was so tired that I was happy I didn’t call one of them Justice Gore,” Klock told Good Morning America today. “And I’m not really very good with names.”And after his first mix-up Monday, Klock referred to David Souter as “Justice Breyer,” referring to another of the court’s justices, Stephen Breyer.“I’m Justice Souter,” came the reply from the bench. “You’d better give that up.”Then Justice Antonin Scalia got into the act, drawing a roar of laughter from the gallery by beginning his next question, “Mr. Klock, I’m Scalia.”