UNITED STATES V. MORRISON, 449 U. S. 361 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361 (1981)

United States v. Morrison

No. 79-395

Argued December 10, 1980

Decided January 13, 1981

449 U.S. 361


Federal agents, aware that respondent had been indicted on federal drug charges and had retained counsel, met with her without her counsel's knowledge or permission, seeking her cooperation in a related investigation. The agents disparaged respondent's counsel and indicated that she would gain various benefits if she cooperated and would face a stiff jail term if she did not, but she declined to cooperate, and notified her attorney. The agents visited respondent again in the absence of counsel, but she did not agree to cooperate with them, nor did she incriminate herself or supply any information pertinent to her case. Subsequently, respondent moved to dismiss the indictment with prejudice on the ground that the agents' conduct violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The agents' egregious behavior was described as having "interfered" in some unspecified way with respondent's right to counsel, but it was not alleged that the claimed violation had prejudiced the quality or effectiveness of her legal representation or that the agents' conduct had any adverse impact on her legal position. The District Court denied the motion and respondent, pursuant to a prior agreement with the Government, entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of the indictment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondent's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated and that whether or not any tangible effect upon her representation had been demonstrated or alleged, the appropriate remedy was dismissal of the indictment with prejudice.

Held: Assuming, arguendo, that the Sixth Amendment was violated in the circumstances of this case, nevertheless the dismissal of the indictment was not appropriate, absent a showing of any adverse consequence to the representation respondent received or to the fairness of the proceedings leading to her conviction. Cases involving Sixth Amendment deprivations are subject to the general rule that remedies should be tailored to the injury suffered from the constitutional violation and should not unnecessarily infringe on competing interests. Absent demonstrable prejudice, or substantial threat thereof, from the violation of the Sixth Amendment, there is no basis for imposing a remedy in the criminal proceeding, which can go forward with full recognition of

Page 449 U. S. 362

the defendant's right to counsel and to a fair trial, and dismissal of the indictment is plainly inappropriate, even though the violation may have been deliberate. Pp. 449 U. S. 364-367.

602 F.2d 529, reversed and remanded. WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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