The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to legal counsel. But what happens if the lawyer is bad at their job?
The Supreme Court just handed down a decision that says federal courts cannot hear a claim of bad lawyering unless it’s made at the state level first.
And who would advise the client to make that claim? The bad lawyer himself. Hmmm.
Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas spends the first 11 pages of the opinion giving (irrelevant) gruesome details of the crimes the two defendants were sentenced to death for. Crimes which one defendant claims evidence not presented by his dud lawyer proves he’s innocent and the other claims proper evidence of his mental state would have taken death row off the table.
Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent: “This decision is perverse. It is illogical: It makes no sense to excuse a habeas petitioner’s counsel’s failure to raise a claim altogether because of ineffective assistance in postconviction proceedings… but to fault the same petitioner for that postconviction counsel’s failure to develop evidence in support of the trial-ineffectiveness claim.”