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U.S. Supreme Court

ABA Amicus Brief Says Mental Incompetency May Require Stays in Capital Habeas Proceedings

Posted Aug 1, 2012 12:43 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The ABA has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that argues capital defendants may be entitled to stays in habeas proceedings if they are not competent to aid their lawyers.

The ABA asserts that the competency requirement is inherent in a federal statute providing for the appointment of counsel for indigent capital defendants pursuing habeas appeals. The brief (PDF) also cites the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, according to a press release.

“For the right to appointment of counsel under [the statute] to be meaningful,” the ABA brief (PDF) says, “the appointment must result in an attorney-client relationship that includes both the right to knowing, rational communication and decision-making by the capital habeas petitioners and, in appropriate circumstances, the right to an appropriate stay of proceedings when they are not competent to participate.”

The brief supports federal appellate rulings in two cases, Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court to Decide on Competency Delays in Death-Row Habeas Cases”

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