Making the Last Chance Meaningful: Predecessor Counsel’s Ethical Duty to the Capital Defendant

By Lawrence J. Fox / Hofstra Law Review, on 1 January 2003

The thesis of this paper is that lawyers who have represented clients in capital murder cases at trial and appeal—not unlike all criminal trial and initial appeal counsel, but more urgently because of the circumstances—continue to owe important obligations to their former clients. These obligations have been just recently included in the latest version of the American Bar Association’s Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death PenaltyCases: In accordance with professional norms, all persons who are or have been members of the defense team have a continuing duty to safeguard the interests of the client and should cooperate fully with successor counsel. This duty includes, but is not limited to: A. maintaining the records of the case in a manner that will inform successor counsel of all significant developments relevant to the litigation; B. providing the client’s files, as well as information regarding all aspects of the representation, to successor counsel; C. sharing potential further areas of legal and factual research with successor counsel; and D. cooperating with such professionally appropriate legal strategies as may be chosen by successor counsel. It is my hope that this article will demonstrate that these Guidelines reflect not just best practice, but actual ethical mandates that trial counsel, like Bryan Saunders, owe their former clients as those clients negotiate the jurisprudential maze known as habeas corpus.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Legal Representation,