Right to Counsel in Postconviction Proceedings

In Martinez v. Ryan, an Arizona prisoner was denied the chance to challenge his trial lawyer’s poor performance because his post-conviction lawyer failed to raise the claims. The Court granted review to address whether there should be a constitutionally-recognized right to counsel in postconviction proceedings where postconviction is the first chance to raise constitutional claims such as ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Martinez also argues that his postconviction lawyer’s failure to raise the claims, without notice to him, should not be held against him.

The Court granted review in Martinez on June 6, 2011.

EJI raised a similar question in Barbour v. Haley, a class-action lawsuit that challenged Alabama’s unique failure to provide timely legal assistance in post-conviction capital cases as a violation of the rights to counsel and access to the courts. The Court denied review in Barbour in 2007, but now seems poised to consider whether, at least in some circumstances, there is a constitutional right to counsel in state postconviction proceedings.


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