It’s difficult to understand why the Supreme Court went for Gregory Chifire’s lawyers. What wrong did they commit? Were they wrong to represent Chifire?
Isn’t Chifire entitled to legal representation? Is the Supreme Court telling us that when you offend it you lose your right to legal representation? Every accused person in this country has a constitutional right to the assistance of a lawyer in all criminal prosecutions. This means that Chifire had a constitutional right to be represented by lawyers during his trial by the Supreme Court judges who were the complainants, the prosecutors and the judges in one. The attitude of the Supreme Court judges towards Chifire’s lawyers will scare many lawyers to represent those who are alleged to have offended them.
It seems they did not want any lawyer to effectively represent Chifire. It would seem that they wanted Chifire’s lawyers to partner with them in nailing him to the cross. Should this be the role of a lawyer? How else can one interpret the Supreme Court’s admonishing of Chifire’s lawyers – Landilani Banda, Grace Kumwenda and McQueen Zaza – for being discourteous to the court and of failing in their duty to ensure the proper administration of justice? Guilty or not guilty, wrong or not wrong, Chifire was entitled to legal representation. And it doesn’t matter who Chifire had offended. We are effectively being told that right to legal representation is not absolute. But when is it available or not available to an accused person? And who should decide whether or not it is available in each case? The Supreme Court!
Can the right to legal representation be so easily waived by offended Supreme Court judges?
Right to counsel means a defendant has a right to have the assistance of lawyers.
The right to legal representation is generally regarded as a constituent of the right to a fair trial.
The role of an accused person’s lawyer is of paramount importance in almost every criminal case – particularly those with the possibility of incarceration, since it’s hard to put a price on one’s freedom.
As such, it cannot be dispensed with so easily.
An accused person has the right to a lawyer at almost every important phase of the criminal process.
And the right to legal representation can be interpreted as guaranteeing the effective assistance of a lawyer to criminal defendants. It’s not symbolic but real and robust legal representation. Chifire’s lawyers were not there to perform ceremonial duties but to robustly represent him and ensure that he doesn’t unnecessarily go to jail. And, indeed, the cruel and dispassionate six-year jail sentence meted on him, clearly demonstrates why Chifire needed fearless lawyers like those he had hired.
Due process always requires the observance of certain fundamental personal rights associated with a hearing, and the right to the aid of a lawyer is of this fundamental character.
The right to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by a lawyer. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crimes, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence.
Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defence, even though he has a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.
Clearly, the right to assistance of a lawyer is necessary to insure the fundamental human rights of liberty.
In our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court cannot be assured a fair trial unless he is represented by a lawyer.
The right to the assistance of a lawyer ensures to the accused person in a criminal trial the opportunity to participate fully and fairly.