Ineffective Assistance in Plea Bargaining?

On Halloween, I was dressed up as a sheep, trick or treating with my daughter, Little Bo Peep. Fortunately, serious legal business was being conducted elsewhere: the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lafler v. Cooper, a fascinating ineffective assistance of counsel case. Here’s a summary of the case, courtesy of SCOTUSblog: Cooper shot a … Read more


Is Padilla Retroactive?

In a post here [editor’s note: the post shows up with my picture for technical reasons, but it was written by Sejal Zota], a former colleague discussed Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (Mar. 31, 2010), a U.S. Supreme Court decision dealing with ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with advice regarding the immigration … Read more


Court of Appeals Holds that Harbison Survives Nixon

In State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985), the North Carolina Supreme Court held that when defense counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent per se ineffective assistance of counsel occurs. The Harbison Court reasoned that when counsel admits guilt without consent, it is essentially the same as entering a … Read more

Failure to Request a Jury Instruction on Informants

I was catching up on the Fourth Circuit’s recent opinions this weekend when I came across United States v. Luck. It raises some interesting issues that are not specific to federal court, so I thought I’d put together a post about it. The defendant in Luck was charged with drug and gun crimes. The government’s … Read more

A New Constitutional Mandate for Defense Counsel

by School of Government Immigration Law Specialist Sejal Zota Is defense counsel constitutionally obligated to inform a noncitizen criminal defendant whether his guilty plea carries a risk of deportation? Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court said yes in a case called Padilla v. Kentucky. In Padilla, the petitioner—a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) for … Read more


Consider the following excerpts from a penalty phase closing argument in a capital case: “[D]on’t look to [the defendant] for sympathy, because he demands none. And, ladies and gentlemen, when you turn and look at [the defendant], don’t look for good deeds, because he has done none. Don’t look for good thoughts, because he has … Read more

Porter and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel at Capital Sentencing Hearings

The United States Supreme Court recently decided Porter v. McCollum, a capital case in which the defendant claimed that his lawyer performed ineffectively at the penalty phase of his trial. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons, including the strong language it contains about the mitigating value of a defendant’s military service. George Porter shot … Read more