Tag Archives: ineffective assistance

Court oks background checks, nixes ineffective assistance claims (access required)

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employees’ privacy interests do not prevent an employer from requiring a background check that includes information like previous drug use, drug counseling or treatment, and mental and financial stability.

That ruling in NASA v. Nelson was one of three opinions handed down by the Court this morning, all reversing 9th Circuit rulings.

The other two opinions dealt with ineffective assistance claims. In Harrington v. Richter the Court ruled that a defendant does not make an ineffective assistance claim where his attorney failed to get an expert to investigate blood evidence from the scene of a shooting.

In Premo v. Moore, the Court held that an attorney’s failure to file a motion to suppress a confession his client claims was coerced cannot be the basis of a post-conviction ineffective assistance challenge.

Each of the rulings was unanimous in the judgment, but Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in any of the cases.

More to coverage of these cases to come on Lawyers USA Online.

Court returns to hear preemption, ineffective assistance cases (access required)

After observing the Columbus Day holiday yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court is back in action today to hear oral arguments in three cases – including one involving an issue of great interest to trial lawyers and business groups alike: preemption.

This afternoon the Court will hear arguments in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, which considers whether the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act expressly preempts state tort claims based on injuries suffered as a result of a polio vaccine. The case could have a major impact on hundreds of product liability lawsuits against vaccine makers claiming a causal connection to autism.

But first, the Court will hear two cases that consider just when a convicted criminal defendant can claim ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal.

In Harington v. Richter the Court will decide whether a criminal defendant is denied the effective assistance of counsel when his lawyer chooses methods other than expert testimony to create a reasonable doubt of guilt. And in Premo v. Moore, the Court will decide if an attorney’s failure to suppress a defendant’s alleged coerced confession warrants post-conviction relief.

Meanwhile, in other Supreme Court-related news:

TV talk: While Justice Stephen Breyer believes its important for Americans to see robed Supreme Court Justices at the president’s State of the Union address, he’s not so sure it’s a good idea for cameras to be in the courtroom – in part because it could lead to “television in every criminal trial in the United States and witnesses [becoming] afraid to appear.” (AP)

The popular crowd:  The Supreme Court has a 51 percent approval rating – making it far more popular than the president (44 percent) or Congress (18 percent). (Gallup)

The trouble with specialists? While there are more Supreme Court practice specialists than ever, there is a growing tension between that group and the public interest lawyers who sometimes question if clients’ interests are always being put first. (The New York Times).

Supreme fashion police: And here is he obligatory story about Justice Elena Kagan’s decision not to don frilly white neckwear with her black robe, care of The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan. At least she also scrutinized what the male justices wore in the Court’s official photo session. (Washington Post)

SCOTUS: Lawyers have constitutional duty not to give bad advice

Lawyers have a constitutional obligation to inform their clients that a criminal plea could result in deportation, the U.S. Supreme Court held today.

In his opinion in the case Padilla v. Kentucky, Justice John Paul Stevens held that an attorney who told his client not to worry about the consequences of a guilty plea – and  whose client was later subject to a deportation order because of his conviction – gave constitutionally deficient representation.

“It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant – whether a citizen or not – is left to the ‘mercies of incompetent counsel,'” Stevens wrote. “To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation.”

The 7-2 ruling was assailed in a dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia, who accused the majority of ignoring the text of the Sixth Amendment in order to achieve the result it wanted.

“Constitution [is] not an all-purpose tool for judicial construction of a perfect world; and when we ignore the text in order to make it that, we often find ourselves swinging a sledge where a tack hammer is needed,” Scalia wrote.

In the other opinion handed down this morning, Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates v. Allstate Insurance, the Court held that a New York state law barring class actions for “penalty” fees cannot prevent a diversity jurisdiction class action claim because the state rule conflicts with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The plurality opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the conflict between state and federal rules must be resolved in favor of the federal rule, which allows such claims.

More on these cases today and in the days to come on Lawyers USA online.