Law Court invites amicus briefs regarding a criminal defendant's right to a speedy trial under the Maine Constitution

Date: 4/14/2022 - 7/28/2022

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, invites briefs of amici curiae in the appeal of Dennis Winchester v. State of Maine, Law Court docket number Aro-21-312. Winchester appeals from the Unified Criminal Docket's denial of his petitions for post-conviction review. Winchester argues that his attorneys in the original criminal proceedings provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to pursue his speedy-trial claims before the trial court and by failing to argue the speedy-trial issues on appeal. The Court has granted Winchester's request for a certificate of probable cause as to two of Winchester's prior attorneys.

A defendant's right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by both the Maine Constitution and the United States Constitution. See Me. Const. art. I, § 6; U.S. Const. amend. VI. The Law Court has adopted the "primacy approach," which is a policy of judicial restraint [that] moves [it] to forbear from ruling on federal constitutional issues before consulting our state constitution. State v. Cadman, 476 A.2d 1148, 1150 (1984) (citations omitted). In light of that approach, the Court invites amicus briefs on the merits of the petitioner's underlying speedy trial claims, which should address the following:

  1. Was Winchester's right to a speedy trial violated under article 1, section 6 of the Maine Constitution? Your response should include a discussion of the proper test Maine courts should apply in analyzing claims of speedy-trial violations under the Maine Constitution.

  2. If Winchester's right to a speedy trial was not violated under the Maine Constitution, was it violated under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution?

The trial court's decision and Winchester's memorandum in support of his request for a certificate of probable cause are available at the links below. Winchester's brief and the appendix will be posted below when they are filed.

An amicus brief may be filed by or on behalf of any individual, entity, or group of individuals and/or entities without separate leave of the Court. Any amicus brief must be filed on or before July 28, 2022. An amicus brief must be filed at the address listed below and must comply with M.R. App. P. 7A. In addition to filing and serving the required number of copies, any amicus must send a copy of the brief electronically, as a single native or text-based .pdf file, to the Clerk of the Law Court at lawcourt.clerk@courts.maine.gov.

Dated: April 14, 2022

Matthew Pollack
Clerk of the Law Court
205 Newbury Street Room 139
Portland, Maine 04101
(207) 822-4146
lawcourt.clerk@courts.maine.gov

Supporting documents

Memorandum in support of request for certificate of probable cause

Trial court decision