The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a Michigan law that barred state-paid legal aid for poor defendants who plead guilty but then want to appeal, reports the Associated Press. The law had been challenged by Antonio Halbert, who pleaded no contest in 2001 to two child molestation charges and received up to 30 years in prison.
Halbert wanted a state-appointed lawyer to help him contest the way his sentence was calculated. Michigan’s 1994 law, passed to clear a backlog of thousands of cases, barred automatic appeals for defendants who plead guilty or no contest. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a 6-3 majority that Halbert had a right to an attorney. Had the court upheld the law, other states likely would have copied it. Seventeen states filed arguments supporting Michigan.