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Access to Counsel

December 29, 2014

Access to Counsel

CaseState of Tennessee v. Michael Smith

Issue:  Is a defendant deprived of due process rights by being required to sit behind counsel table?

Facts:  The Defendant challenges Rule 8.05 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure for Shelby County Criminal Court. The Rule states “[w]here space is available and with permission of the Court, the defendant may sit at counsel table with his or her attorney.” The Defendant requested permission to sit next to his attorney at trial. The trial court denied his request and the Defendant sat behind his attorney throughout the duration of the trial.

Appellate Decision:  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed finding that the trial judge may control the seating arrangement in the courtroom. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it required the Defendant to sit behind his attorney

Review Granted:  December 18, 2014.

Prediction:  In State v. Rice, 184 S.W.3d 646 (Tenn. 2006) the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the trial court’s discretion in where a Defendant sits at trial as provided in Local Rule 8.05 violated due process. The Court held that the judge can require the defendant to sit behind his or her lawyer. This Local Rule is nonsense. David thinks the Supreme Court will overrule Rice.