Adam Liptak of the NY Times analyzes the weakness of representation for criminal defendants whose cases reach the US Supreme Court. The primary factor, according to Liptak, is vanity: lawyers in those very rare cases that make it to the Court don’t want to pass the once-in-a-lifetime chance to argue there, and so most are by definition inexperienced.
Lipton cites another difficulty facing criminal defendants in the Supreme Court: Six of the eight members of the current court have worked in prosecutors’ offices. Four of them served in the Justice Department; Justice Clarence Thomas was an assistant attorney general of Missouri; and Justice Sotomayor was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. Should the Senate confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, the court would gain a former Justice Department official who supervised the prosecutions of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and of Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber.With Judge Garland on the court, the justices would have a total of 36 years of prosecutorial experience, the most in at least four decades.