Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tennessee: The Importance of Representation

Capital University Law School professor Dan Kobil is counsel of record for the petitioner in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court related to the exercise of clemency in the states. Harbison v. Bell addresses the issue of legal representation for individuals sentenced to death. More specifically, it ponders whether such persons should be allowed the services of federally-funded attorneys to assist with clemency applications to governors and state boards when no other attorneys are available for assistance.

Federal law appears to allow for such assistance, but the circuits are divided on the mater. The 5th, 6th and 11th circuits take the position that assistance is available only for persons seeking clemency from the president. However, the 8th and 10th circuits take the position that the law allows federal assistance for individuals involved in state processes as well.

Prof. Kobil's brief to the Court (here) takes the straightforward position that it is "vital" that decisions on the commutation of death sentences be based on "the most complete information" and that such information be presented "in a professional manner." At least eleven current and former governors agree and have joined in the brief. Read more about the case here.

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