Austin, Texas — It’s a time of upheaval for many in the criminal defense community, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case of Texas’ criminal defense attorney, who has been fighting for years to be recognized as an attorney-client.
The justices will hear arguments in May from Texas’ top three criminal defense lawyers — Austin’s Eddy Cuellar, Los Angeles’ George S. Williams, and New York’s Michael Dreeben.
They’ll also hear arguments from two former prosecutors and former state attorneys general who are defending Texas’ death penalty and the constitutionality of its new mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of drug-related crimes.
A majority of the court is expected to rule in favor of Texas, and the court has yet to rule on the case.
“It’s really the last thing on the mind of a lot of the criminal justice folks out there,” said Charles Grodin, a former federal prosecutor who worked for three years in Texas and currently teaches at Georgetown Law School.
“They really have a lot to say about the constitution and about the death penalty, and they’re not going to be heard by the court.”
The court will be hearing the case on May 13.
But Grodin said he’s been following the case closely and it’s “a lot to take in” and is not something that can be swept under the rug.
Grodin served as the chief counsel for the Texas Criminal Defense Bar Association from 2001 to 2013.
He’s currently a professor of law at the University of Houston and a law professor at the Texas School of Law.
Grodins lawyer, David Satterfield, was previously the lead attorney for the state of Texas.
In February, he was among the three attorneys appointed by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott to represent the state in the trial of a convicted killer and drug trafficker.
“This is a very complex case, and I think it’s important to have the court weigh in,” Satterford told the Austin American-Statesman.
“But it’s a very complicated case that involves a lot more than just one lawyer, and it is very much in the public interest to have a robust legal system that provides justice.”
Satterfords legal team is comprised of three former prosecutors who were involved in the prosecution of Eric Nichols, the man charged with capital murder in the 2009 killing of his girlfriend, Jennifer LaVoy.
Satterfields team argued in Nichols case that the evidence did not support his conviction on capital murder charges.
Sapersons team argued that Nichols was innocent of the crime and that the police officer who arrested him and shot him was legally justified in shooting Nichols because he feared for his life.
Saterfords team won the case, which led to a new trial and is now on appeal.
The death penalty has been abolished in Texas since the death of Robert Bates, who was convicted in the death in 1993 of his former girlfriend, Cynthia Mott, and sentenced to death.
Satel said in an email to the AP that Satter’s team has been involved in many of the cases against people who have been sentenced to die.
“In some of those cases, I have argued that a new state statute that would allow execution, a capital murder, could be unconstitutional and should be overruled,” he wrote.
“Satterfys team has always worked with a broad range of clients who have challenged the death penalties and challenged the legitimacy of capital punishment in Texas.
I have no reason to doubt that they will be willing to continue doing that.”
Satel told the AP, “If it looks like they’re going to argue for the death, then I don’t know why they won’t do it.”
In March, Satterfathers team filed a lawsuit against the state, asking a federal judge to stop the execution of a man who is facing a death sentence because of his alleged role in the murder of another man in 2011.
The lawsuit argues that the death sentence violates the Sixth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and asks for the federal court to declare the death row inmate to be mentally retarded.
The court heard arguments in that case in April.
Grodelin told the newspaper that he’s “proud” of the team’s work.
“We have a good group of people who are doing this,” he said.
“These people represent a very strong group of individuals.”
Saperfield and Grodin were not immediately available for comment.
Grodan’s team is also representing a client in the state’s capital murder case, but the attorney has said his client will not be able to travel for the trial because of a lack of money and a backlog of documents.
Saperfords lawyers have also represented clients facing capital murder sentences in other states.
Sapperfords attorneys have argued in at least three other capital murder cases, and Sapperstein’s office has represented two defendants in the first two.