Ineffective Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Decisions

This week, for the third time this term, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s handling of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a capital case with a per curiam opinion. In the first two cases, Bobby v. Van Hook (6th Circuit) and Wong v. Belmontes (9th Circuit), the Court vacated lower court decisions in favor of capital defendants.  In each case, the Court thought the appellate court had been too solicitous of the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim.  Yet this week in Porter v. McCollum (11th Circuit), the Court reversed a decision that had rejected the defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.  In all three case, the Court made its decision without oral argument (indeed, without the benefit of briefs beyond those from the cert petition stage).  Thus, it would appear the Court is quite unhappy with how appellate courts are handling ineffective assistance claims.

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