The Champion

February 2009 , Page 14 

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The Role of Trial Counsel In Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims: Three Questions to Keep in Mind

By David M. Siegel

Whether the constitutional guarantee of effective assistance of counsel is meaningful ultimately depends on the work of criminal defense lawyers at two different times: when initially representing a defendant and later when that former client claims ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC). Even when other participants in the system fail to ensure effectiveness of counsel, it is the criminal defense lawyer’s deficiency that matters.1 This responsibility, to our clients and to the criminal justice system, can produce conflicting ethical obligations even for diligent counsel faced with an IAC claim. There are an infinite variety of ways to be ineffective, but there are three key points at which the conscientious lawyer can act to ensure he or she renders effective assistance consistent with his or her ethical obligations, and that the former client’s rights to effective assistance are protected. Counsel should consider these three questions:

  • Before the engagement: Are you qualified to comp
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