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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eldred: Ethics And The Response To Ineffective Assistance Claims

Tigran Eldred (New England Law) has posted "Motivation Matters: Guideline 10.13 and Other Mechanisms for Preventing Lawyers from Surrendering to Self-Interest in Responding to Allegations of Ineffective Assistance in Death Penalty Cases" on SSRN.  The article is forthcoming in the Hofstra Law Review.  Here is the abstract:

Defense lawyers whose clients are sentenced to death are virtually guaranteed to be accused of ineffective assistance of counsel. The question is how they will respond. On one hand, lawyers alleged to be ineffective are obligated under Guideline 10.13 of the American Bar Association’s Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases to continue to safeguard the interests of their former clients, a duty that includes full cooperation in appropriate legal strategies chosen to pursue the ineffectiveness claim. On the other hand, lawyers who are accused of ineffectiveness often react defensively to the allegation, reflexively viewing the claim of poor performance as an attack on their competency and reputation. To date, there has been no systematic attempt to understand how these tensions are mediated and resolved.

To fill this gap, this article explores the psychological dimensions of how lawyers can be expected to respond to allegations of ineffectiveness. Relying on empirical research into “motivated reasoning” – a phenomenon that describes the many ways in which people unconsciously seek out, interpret and recall information in a manner that is consistent with their pre-conceived wishes and desires – it argues that motivation can be expected to play a dominant role in how lawyers respond to alleged ineffectiveness. Further, because motivation exercises its power implicitly, efforts to encourage compliance with the obligations set forth in Guideline 10.13 must take into account the subtle psychological forces that influence behavior. Simply put: motivation matters.

Counsel's ethical obligations in response to an effective assistance claim is an important and often overlooked study area.  Such such claims are frequent in the criminal system, and are frought with ethical landmines.  Attorneys facing such a claim must answer the claim with due regard to the duty to maintain client confidentiality. Under what circumstances may an attorney reveal client confidences when responding to the ineffective assistance claim?  This is a serious question attorneys and courts must address in such cases. 

Professor Eldred gives criminal law attorneys much to consider when confronting a claim that representation rendered to a client has been deficient.   He has highlighted important ethical considerations an attory must weigh when responding to an ineffecitve assistance claim.  The paper is also useful to judges that issue orders compelling responses to such claims.  I don't agree with everything Eldred has written, but on the whole, this paper covers new ground and will be useful to practicing lawyers and judges.

Craig Estlinbaum

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/adjunctprofs/2014/03/eldred.html

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