Reading Assignments for 
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel


According to Scheck and Neufeld, in almost one third of the cases they studied, bad lawyering contributed to the wrongful conviction.  Why is ineffective counsel so prevalent?  And what can be done about it?

For background on the nature of the problem, read the testimony of Stephen Bright in support of the Innocence Protection Act.

For more in-depth analysis of the problem, see Stephen Bright, Counsel for the Poor: The Death Sentence Not for the Worst Crime but for the Worst Lawyer, 103 Yale L.J. 1835 (1994) and Stephen Bright, Neither Equal Nor Just: The Rationing and Denial of Legal Services to the Poor When Life and Liberty Are at Stake, 1997 Annual Survey of Amer. Law 783 (1999).

In what ways can ineffective contribute to wrongful convictions?  What should you watch for in your cases?  Where will you find it?


The Supreme Court defined the standards for constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel in Strickland v. Washington.  If you are not familiar with Strickland, read it now.  As you will see, the Court refused to set standards for the performance of counsel under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.  Standards have been promulgated to provide guidance on what constitutes effective representation, but they are generally not binding on lawyers or on courts.  See Compendium of Standards for Indigent Defense Systems.