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Name: United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez
Case #: 05-352
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/26/2006
Subsequent History: 126 S.Ct. 2557; 165 L.Ed.2d 409

A criminal defendant is entitled to a reversal of conviction when deprived of his choice of counsel. Respondent hired an attorney, Low, to represent him on a federal drug charge, but the District court denied Low’s application for admission, and prevented Respondent from meeting or consulting with Low during his trial. Respondent was found guilty. The appellate court reversed, holding that the court’s refusal to admit Low violated Respondent’s Sixth Amendment right to paid counsel of his choosing, and that this violation was not subject to harmless error review. The United States Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a trial court’s erroneous deprivation of a criminal defendant’s choice of counsel entitles him to a reversal of his conviction. The Court rejected the Government’s argument that a violation is not complete unless the defendant can show that substitute counsel was ineffective and that he was prejudiced by that performance. The right to counsel of choice commands not that a trial be fair, but that a particular guarantee of fairness be provided, that is, that the accused be defended by the counsel he believes to be the best. Appellant’s Sixth Amendment right was violated here; no additional showing of prejudice is required. Erroneous deprivation of the right to counsel of choice qualifies as structural error.