By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
(It should go without saying that in what follows, I am speaking only for myself. Perhaps these comments will spark a useful public dialogue over an important issue that has, in my judgment, been ignored for too long.)
The Constitution ensures criminal defendants access to legal counsel. It does not require taxpayers to pay for it.
The Jody Arias retrial is back in the news, as taxpayers who have already been soaked to the tune of $2 million are getting ready to take another bath to fund a defense for this murderess.
The Sixth Amendment is clear that the accused shall “have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” Nowhere, however, is there any requirement whatsoever that anybody but the accused foot the bill for it. None.
With the rise of an activist judiciary, courts began to invent the right to taxpayer-funded public defenders and in 1963, with no constitutional warrant, the Supreme Court ruled that law-abiding citizens had to cough up the legal fees for a guy who broke into a bar and stole some beer.
Thus, for the last 50 years, taxpayers all across the fruited plain have been forced against their will to pay $65 an hour and up for lawyers for murderers, rapists, bank robbers and the like, thus making the poor hapless taxpayer a victim of crime not once but twice.
Innovative, ingenious, unelected and unaccountable judges magically found an emanation or a penumbra wafting up from the Founders’parchment, an emanation so mystical it had utterly escaped the notice of the finest jurists in the land for 176 years.
Human nature being what it is, there can be little doubt that, somewhere in the fevered mind of a criminal hovers the thought that if he gets caught, he’ll get an attorney for free. The deterrent effect of knowing that you or your family will have to pay for your own legal defense evaporates, and thieves know now they can rip off their victims once and then rip them off again if they get caught.
It’s no surprise, given the incentive of free legal defense, the prison population in America is now ten times what it was when the Supreme Court first imposed this act of judicial tyranny on us.
The solution to restoring constitutional balance is simple: a governor, backed by his state legislature, who simply refuses to comply. A governor who will say to the Supreme Court, “I can read the Constitution just like you and there is nowhere in there where my citizens are obligated to pay for criminal defense attorneys. We’re not going to fleece our taxpayers any longer for this. We’ll make sure that the accused has access to an attorney, because that’s in the Constitution, but paying for that attorney is not. From now on, we are going to expect criminal defendants to provide for their own defense out of their own pockets. Maybe that’ll give would-be criminals something else to think about while they are plotting their next journey into crime.”
A governor who did this would not be violating the Constitution. He would be upholding it. He would not be violating the law, he would be ignoring a blatantly unconstitutional and thus legally void ruling from judges who themselves ignored the plain meaning of the text and committed a second judicial offense by unconstitutionally imposing an additional tax burden on the American people. The Constitution emphatically does not give the Court the right to raise our taxes, but the Court did it anyway and the American people have since meekly complied.
The American people are good-hearted and generous. Charitable organizations which exist for the purpose of providing a defense for the falsely accused already exist. In addition, privately funded firms exist which provide pro bono representation for those whose First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, speech, the press and association are infringed.
Are criminals entitled by the Constitution to legal counsel? Absolutely. Are they entitled to have taxpayers foot the bill? Absolutely not. Where is the governor who will lead us back to the Constitution?
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)