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WSU Law Professor Wins US Supreme Court Case

October 27, 2006

In a decision announced June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with WSU Law Professor David Moran’s argument in Halbert v. Michigan that a person who has pleaded guilty to a crime and seeks permission to appeal has a constitutional right to state-provided counsel.

The ruling was 6-3. The opinion is available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04slipopinion.html

Professor Moran argued the case on April 25, 2005 before the highest court in the nation as an ACLU cooperating attorney. Since 1999 Michigan has been the only state with a law barring judges from appointing counsel for indigents who pleaded guilty. Other states were closely watching the case, and 17 other states had filed friend of the court briefs in support.

“I’m very pleased that the Court has rejected Michigan’s attempt to gut the fundamental right to an attorney on a first appeal from a criminal conviction, a right that every American state, except Michigan, has scrupulously honored for than 40 years,” said Moran.

According to the ACLU, over 90% of all felony convictions are obtained by guilty plea, and lack of counsel on appeal could mean errors in sentencing would remain uncorrected.

David Moran is currently Assistant Professor of Law at the Wayne State University Law School, a position he has held since 2000. He teaches a wide range of criminal law cases and evidence, and also serves as the faculty advisor for the School’s Moot Court. His students have awarded him “Teacher of the Year” honors six times, and he has been honored by both the Law School and the University for his superior teaching. Prior to joining the Law School, Moran worked as an assistant defender for the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit.

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