Legal News

Supreme Court Expands the Scope of Right to Effective Legal Assistance
Download PDF
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

On last Wednesday, a new ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court has changed the legal system in our country. The court held that the constitutional right to effective legal counseling extended to plea bargains that are later rejected or lapsed following poor advice from legal counsel. The ruling changes the legal landscape in that if an accused refuses the bargain of pleading guilty and chooses to go to trial, upon advice of the counsel, another bargain remains open to the accused. If the sentencing is higher than that offered by the initial plea-deal, then, if the lawyer had advised to reject the idea of pleading guilty and go to trial, the accused can claim having been deprived of effective legal assistance.

The sharply divided 5-4 decision of the court was decided by Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the liberals in two cases and the majority found the right to effective counsel applicable to informal plea bargain negotiations between criminal defendants and prosecutors.

However, in ruling for the second case on related issues, the court held that a defendant must show the existence of a “reasonable probability” that the judge would have accepted the plea bargain and that specifically the bad advice of the lawyer caused the defendant to stand trial and reject the bargain.


The fallout of these decisions on two cases from Missouri and Michigan can effectively lead to the reopening of many cases across the nation where convicts had passed up favorable plea bargains and chose to stand trial due to ineffective legal assistance.

In a country, where almost billions in legal expenses are saved because 95% of criminal cases end in plea bargains, the new pair of rulings can also see an escalation of business for lawyers and the court.

The rulings held that to show harm when a plea offer has lapsed or been rejected due to the bad advice of a lawyer, the defendants need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that if they had received effective legal advice they would have accepted the plea deal.

Get JD Journal in Your Mail

Subscribe to our FREE daily news alerts and get the latest updates on the most happening events in the legal, business, and celebrity world. You also get your daily dose of humor and entertainment!!

In one of the cases, Justice Kennedy commented that when a defendant is able to prove ineffective legal assistance leading to a more sever sentence than the plea deal then there needs to be a remedy to “’neutralize the taint’ of a constitutional violation.”

Justice Scalia read his dissent from the bench and said that the defendants in the instant cases had been convicted and sentenced under constitutionally valid and fair procedures. He added “Until today, no one has thought that there is a constitutional right to a plea bargain … Today’s opinion opens a whole new field of constitutionalized criminal procedure: the field of plea-bargaining law. The court announces this new field in opinions that almost seem designed to sow confusion.”

The Supreme Court cases are Lafler v. Cooper, No. 10-209, and Missouri v. Frye, No. 10-444.



Part-time Contract Federal Government Contracts Attorney


Koprince Law LLC, a boutique law firm in Lawrence, Kansas that focuses exclusively on the unique leg...

Apply now

Legal Secretary

USA-LA-New Orleans

A New Orleans litigation law firm is seeking an experienced Legal Assistant / Legal Secretary to und...

Apply now

Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney

USA-TX-Fort Worth

We are currently looking for a consumer Bankruptcy Attorney to join our team. This position is respo...

Apply now

Case Manager / Legal Assistant / Paralegal


Want to have a fulfilling career with purpose helping military veterans? We are a *dog friendly* ...

Apply now




Search Now

Tax Attorney

USA-MI-Bloomfield Hills

Bloomfield Hills office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks tax attorney with 10+ yea...

Apply Now

Tax Attorney


Detroit office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks tax attorney with 10+ years of exp...

Apply Now

Litigation Attorney


Illinois office of a BCG Attorney Search Top Ranked Law Firm seeks litigation attorney with 3+ years...

Apply Now


To Top