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Board Member Wins Supreme Court Case
From: Paul Stevenson, Administrative Co-Chair
I write to salute our fellow Justice Caucus Board Member, Chair of our Justice Caucus Judicial Endorsements Committee and President of the Michigan Chapter of the American Constitution Society, Valerie Newman.
Attorney "Val" Newman is not a partner in a blue blood, silk stocking, corporate law firm. Val has chosen a different path. Val daily seeks justice in the practice of criminal defense, perhaps the most difficult kind.
You see, Val is an underpaid criminal defense appellate attorney with the State Appellate Defenders Office. She represents the indigent who cannot afford to hire an attorney to appeal a conviction or sentence. She is one of the very best. Many of you know Val and her passion for social and economic justice.
Last week, Val scored a close 5-4, but decisive, victory before the United States Supreme Court in Lafler v. Cooper. In Lafler, the Supreme Court agreed with Val's argument that the Sixth Amendment Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel includes the right to receive competent advice from counsel when deciding whether to reject a plea offer.
Post conviction criminal defense work is perhaps the most challenging area of law a lawyer could encounter. The composition of the United States Supreme Court and the Michigan Supreme Court together with the federal Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and Michigan's own Michigan Court Rule MCR 6.500 have created a procedural morass in which even the innocent are too often denied a day in court. And as Valerie's work in Lafler confirms, even those who are willing to plead guilty are too often denied fundamental constitutional protections such as the right to effective assistance of counsel.
Val exemplifies the ideals set forth in our mission statement. Let's all give a shout out to Val Newman, a "Lawyer on the Side of People."
Well done, Val!
- Paul Stevenson