The right to effective representation

supreme court.jpgYou have the right to counsel of your choice. If you can afford it, you need to hire the best attorney for your case that you can. Under current economic conditions, many cannot afford the attorney they need and must petition the court for counsel. If indigent by standards set in Texas, you are entitled to a court appointed attorney (but cannot choose which specific attorney).

Courts have an awesome (sometimes life and death) responsibility to appoint lawyers in capital case dedicated to going the extra mile to ensure that the accused truly has the most able assistance of counsel possible. The Code of Criminal Procedures sets the minimum qualification for such counsel. Additionally, the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees ALL persons accused of a crime the right to effective assistance of counsel. But what does this mean? Surely someone simply standing or sitting (or sleeping) by the client as the prosecutor buries him is not enough. You don’t get a lawyer just to hold your hand while you plead guilty, or even one to do an OK job but miss key facts.

Courts have held that you are, at a minimum, entitled to a lawyer whose performance in your case is reasonable under prevailing professional norms (mainly established by the American Bar Association) and whose representation does not prejudice your case. However, appellate courts presume that a lawyer’s representation is reasonable, and that most choices made in the course of representation are “trial strategy.” Lawyers will oftentimes lie about their errors (or motives for committing them) in post-conviction challenges to protect their reputation at the expense of their client’s freedom or life. That is the reality.

This reality is why Courts and defendants must ensure that citizens accused are represented, from death penalty cases down to the lowest misdemeanors, by the most competent attorneys possible under the circumstances. Trial is overwhelmingly the best opportunity to win your case. Appeals and writs – even in death penalty cases – have remote possibilities for success, so you need to ensure that you or a loved one is represented by a really good lawyer. The best way to ensure that is to hire the best lawer that you can afford.