"Disaggregating Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Doctrine: Four Forms of Constitutional Ineffectiveness"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
2020
Publication
Stanford Law Review
Publication Type
Journal Article
Abstract

For years, experts have blamed Strickland v. Washington's lax standard for assessing trial attorney effectiveness for many of the criminal justice system's problems. But the conventional understanding of Strickland as a problem for ineffectiveness claims gives the decision too much prominence because it treats Strickland as the test for all such claims. That is a mistake. Properly understood, the Supreme Court has recognized four different constitutional forms of trial attorney ineffectiveness, and Strickland's twopronged test applies to only one of the four. If litigants and courts would notice this complexity and relegate Strickland to its proper place, it would pave the way for
meritorious ineffectiveness claims of the other three kinds. This Article disaggregates strands of Sixth Amendment doctrine that others have jumbled together to enable courts and litigants to confine Strickland to its proper domain and use more appropriate analyses
elsewhere.

The Article also explains why additional disaggregation is necessary within the category of cases where Strickland rightly applies. Implicitly, the Supreme Court has created not one but three tests for assessing deficient performance within that domain, and it has indicated
a willingness to soften the outcome-determinative prejudice prong as well. Failure to recognize these different forms of Strickland ineffectiveness has made the test seem much harder for defendants to satisfy than needs to be true. Recognizing these complexities, and
applying the right test in the right case, is necessary if individual defendants are to be treated fairly and systemic constitutional problems in the provision of indigent defense
services are to be addressed.