U.S. Supreme Court

ABA Brief Supports Constitutional Right to Effective Assistance in Post-Conviction Appeal


A defendant’s fair trial right isn’t protected if he receives ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial stage and again at his first appellate opportunity to raise the claim, the ABA contends in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ABA filed the brief (PDF) in a Supreme Court appeal by Luis Mariano Martinez, who was convicted of sexual contact with a minor in Arizona. The brief cites the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, according to a press release.

“Many states, including Arizona, designate post-conviction proceedings as the preferred or mandatory forum for litigating an ineffective of assistance of trial claim … for the first time,” the ABA brief says. “The ABA respectfully asserts that counsel representing a defendant at that proceeding should provide the same quality of representation—that is, effective assistance of counsel—as is constitutionally required of counsel at trial.”

Martinez claims his trial lawyer failed to object to inaccurate testimony by a prosecution expert about the reasons for victim recantations. He claims his appellate lawyer filed a notice of post-conviction relief saying she could find no colorable claims, and she didn’t tell him about the filing or his need to file a pro se petition within 45 days.

SCOTUSblog has called the cert grant in Martinez v. Ryan “a big deal in habeas law.”

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