Supreme Court Ruling Expands Opportunities for Federal Review of Ineffective Assistance Claims

On May 28, 2013, the Court ruled (5-4) in Trevino v. Thaler that death row inmates in Texas can raise claims of ineffectiveness of counsel for the first time in federal court if they did not have a meaningful chance to raise the claim in state appeals. The Court held that its ruling in Martinez v. Ryan (2012), which provided such a right in an Arizona case where state law forbids raising the claim in one's direct appeal, applies in Texas because the “state procedural framework, by reason of its design and operation, makes it highly unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel on direct appeal.” In Martinez v. Ryan, the Supreme Court ruled that “procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the initial-review collateral proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was ineffective.”

(A. Liptak, "Divided Court, in 2 Rulings, Makes It Easier to Challenge Criminal Convictions," New York Times, May 28, 2013).  See Representation and U.S. Supreme Court.  Read full text of the Court's opinion.