The wrongful arrest case of Walt Rothgery of Llano, Tx.,, a modest man with a hard-luck life, goes before the Supreme Court Monday, says the Austin American-Statesman. Rothgery, 57, is a store manager for a party supply rental business. His case could expand, or at least better define, when criminal defendants are entitled to a lawyer if they cannot afford to hire one. He has the support of the American Bar Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and 24 high-profile law professors.
Rothgery’s supporters want Texas counties to appoint a lawyer during a suspect’s first court appearance, when charges are explained and a trip to jail is possible. Such a practice could have saved Rothgery from three weeks in jail and the stigma of being arrested, which left him unable to find a job and deeply in debt. Only Texas and five other states do not provide counsel before, during or just after the initial court appearance, says the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Texas, joined by 17 other states and Puerto Rico, argues that Rothgery’s remedy would be unnecessarily expensive and would improperly expand the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of legal representation for the accused.