Godinez v. Moran and Trial Competencies: Exploring New Frontiers

Michael Perlin, J.D., Professor of Law, New York Law School

In 1993, the Supreme Court ruled, in Godinez v. Moran, that the standard for waiver of counsel was the same as the standard for competency to stand trial. This case has been mostly ignored by commentators, lawyers, and advocates, and consideration of its doctrine only comes up in the context of a high-profile case (e.g., the Colin Ferguson/LIRR case, or now, the Massouri terrorism case). Godinez, however, has important implications for a variety of cases involving persons perceived to have mental disabilities (in both the civil and criminal context), and is important both from the perspectives of sanism/pretextuality and the way that we think about the intersection between perceived mental disability and "competency." In this workshop, I will address these, and suggest some implications both of the Godinez decision and the public's reaction to post-Godinez controversial cases.

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