Sunday, October 9, 2011
No symposium designed to address crises in the legal profession would be complete without a discussion of our systematic failure to provide competent legal representation to criminal defendants. In these symposium remarks, I analyze each stage of the criminal process from the trial to direct appeal, through the state post-conviction process, and into federal habeas corpus proceedings and explain how, at each stage, criminal defendants routinely face the threat of incarceration (or continued incarceration) without the aid of competent counsel. In addition to failing to provide effective representation, I demonstrate how the criminal justice system essentially prevents defendants from ever being able to challenge their counsels’ ineffective performance, thus rendering the right to effective counsel a right without a remedy. Finally, I offer some possible suggestions for ways to reform the criminal justice system so as to restore meaning to the fundamental right to counsel.