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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 91079 Find in a Library
Title: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel - Attempts To Establish Minimum Standards (From Defense Counsel, P 221-246, 1983, William F McDonald, ed. - See NCJ-91072)
Author(s): S H Goldblatt
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 26
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examines the evolution of legal perspectives which have established the right to competent counsel and the various measures of competence which have been applied in the courts.
Abstract: The sixth amendment provides that an accused has the right to the assistance of counsel; however, this right was not traditionally perceived as including the right to a competent lawyer. The fifth amendment (the right to due process) fundamental-fairness standard for incompetent representation was first set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1945. This court used the 'farce and mockery' test for competence, and it subsequently became the prevailing standard used by courts to determine counsel competence. In 1970, the Supreme Court held that the sixth amendment right to counsel contemplated the 'effective assistance of competent counsel.' Some courts retain the farce and mockery test but now conclude that the trial is reduced to a farce if counsel fails to 'exercise the customary skills and diligence that a reasonably competent attorney would perform under similar circumstances.' The courts also require that the defendant must have been harmed by the incompetence. Courts do not agree on how strong a showing of prejudice is necessary to warrant relief. Various approaches to competency measures have been promoted by judges Leventhal, MacKinnon, Robinson, and Bazelon. Ultimately, the problem remains that of defining the minimally acceptable service an attorney can provide regardless of cost. The particular need of some scholars to look beyond the courts for creation and enforcement of minimum standards for defense lawyers should not divert attention from posttrial judicial review, since this is the only institution capable of forcing change. Twenty-three notes, 23 references, and a list of court cases are provided.
Index Term(s): Attorney competence; Evaluation measures; Procedure manuals; Professional conduct and ethics
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