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89 Wash. L. Rev. 709 (2014)
The Not So Speedy Trial Act

handle is hein.journals/washlr89 and id is 731 raw text is: THE NOT SO SPEEDY TRIAL ACT

Shon Hopwood
Abstract: The Speedy Trial Act (STA) of 1974 occupies a peculiar place in the criminal
justice system. Very few pieces of legislation can lay claim to protecting both the rights of
criminal defendants and the public's significant interest in timely justice, while reducing the
cost ofjudicial administration. The STA formerly accomplished these lofty aims by reducing
pretrial delays. But for the past two decades legal scholars have ignored the STA, and both
prosecutors and defense attorneys have subverted the STA's goals by routinely moving for
continuances. And although the Act categorically applies in every federal criminal case, it
has been effectively marginalized by federal district and circuit courts. The reason this
happens is simple: no actor in the criminal justice system has an incentive to follow it.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike rely on delays in the system; and overburdened
district courts, which have opposed the STA since its inception, have failed to enforce it as
written. Appellate courts, too, prefer to thwart the STA's requirements rather than reverse a
conviction obtained by otherwise constitutional means. The institutional inertia that pulls
courts away from the STA's commands has led to a predictable result: an increase in pretrial
delays, the very ill that Congress intended to cure when it passed the Act. This Article
highlights and examines the ways in which federal courts undermine the STA and details a
number of open circuit court conflicts involving the Act. The Article then proposes a
comprehensive, but non-Congressional, fix that prescribes how every actor in the criminal
justice system can comply with the Act as Congress intended.
INTRODUCTION                    ..............................            ...... 710
I.    UNACCEPTABLE DELAY.                   ..................           ....... 712
A. The Interests Animating the Speedy Trial Act and the
Judiciary's Initial Response         .................       .... 712
B. The Speedy Trial Act ...................... 714
II.   WAIVER OF SPEEDY TRIAL ACT RIGHTS                         .     ............ 716
III. THE ENDS-OF-JUSTICE CONTINUANCE .......                             ........ 719
A. The Need to Provide On-the-Record Reasons for Ends-
of-Justice Continuances.        ..................           ...... 719
B. Finding Reasons from Context Instead of Explicit
The author worked on Wasson v. United States, cited below, with the University of Virginia
School of Law Supreme Court Clinic, which represented Mr. Wasson before the Supreme Court of
the United States. The author was a William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholar at the University
of Washington School of Law where he received his J.D. Thanks to Professors Tom Cobb, Mary
Fan, and Jacqueline McMurtrie for their helpful comments. I also would like to thank my lovely
wife, Ann Marie, for making it possible for me to write this article while raising two young
children, and my constitutional law professor, Ronald K.L. Collins, who has graciously provided me
with more mentorship and friendship than any student is realistically entitled to. Lastly, I would like
to thank Bruce McWilliams, who provided some of the source material; rest in peace, Bruce.


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