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ABA Files Amicus Curiae Brief in Martinez v. Ryan

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

When the Supreme Court schedule includes an ineffective counsel case, you can expect that the American Bar Association (ABA) will weigh in on the issue.

The ABA filed an amicus curiae brief this week in Martinez v. Ryan, a case challenging whether a defendant has a right to effective counsel during his post-conviction relief petition hearings. When considering the case in 2010, the Ninth Circuit held that, since there is no right to assistance of post-conviction counsel in connection with a state petition for post-relief conviction, there could be no right to the effective assistance of counsel.

Luis Mariano Martinez, a prisoner in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections, petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus following his conviction for two counts of sexual conduct with a person under 15. Martinez alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, but that his state-appointed appellate counsel failed to raise this claim in the first state post-conviction relief proceeding brought on his behalf.

In his petition to the Supreme Court, Martinez argues that an indigent defendant's right to the assistance of appellate counsel is fundamentally a right to counsel in connection with the presentation of a claim of error at the first tier of review.

In its amicus curiae brief, the ABA argues that defendants asserting a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel should have a right to effective assistance of counsel at the first state court proceeding in which they can bring that claim.

The ABA is urging the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit's ruling. The group claims that recognition of a right to effective assistance of counsel at that stage "is paramount if state and federal post-conviction proceedings are to remain viable forums for enforcing a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to effective trial counsel."

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Martinez v. Ryan on October 4. For additional updates on the Supreme Court's 2011 schedule and hearings, visit FindLaw's Supreme Court blog.

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