The Corner

A Case at Law

Here’s a question I got from reader Tim Baughman. It has me foxed. Would any of our legal brains care to offer an opinion?

There is a legal proposition which is true: Those who plead guilty because of (sufficiently) bad advice by their attorney are entitled to a trial.

Other cases say that from this proposition it logically follows that those who have a trial because of bad advice from their attorney are entitled to plead guilty (having their trial conviction set aside).

These cases say this proposition is simply the “converse” of the accepted proposition. I believe it is not the converse (and that the converse of categorical affirmatives is not generally true in any event), and that the truth of the first proposition says nothing, as a matter of logic, as to whether the second proposition is true.

What say you?

I think the appeal of the law, for intellectually-inclined people, is that legal logic is a special kind of logic, that doesn’t yield easily to syllogistic analysis. If the second thing above followed from the first, for instance (which I am sure it doesn’t), would it also follow that a defendant who goes to trial and is acquitted, and who then is discovered to have had outrageously bad legal advice, would be obliged to plead guilty at retrial? Surely nobody would think so – well, nobody except Eric Holder, perhaps.

Anyone who actually knows legal stuff be willing to pass an opinion?

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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