Court Decisions after Strickland v. Washington: The Evolution of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Requirements in Federal and State Courts

Morrison, Mackenzie
The landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) established the right to assistance of counsel for all indigent defendants. However, it did not guarantee a right to effective assistance of counsel. An attorney must be more than a warm body standing next to a defendant. Strickland v. Washington (1984) established that not only do defendants have a right to assistance of counsel, but they must also have effective assistance. The Strickland decision established a two-part requirement in order for a defendant or petitioner to show ineffective assistance. After Strickland, the federal government continued to make decisions based off of these requirements, sometimes expanding and sometimes contracting the requirements, however, never steering too far from the Strickland test. States such as Wyoming and Colorado have continued to uphold the Strickland test. Though, states like New York and Hawaii viewed the requirement as too high, in turn these states lowered the bar for the ineffective assistance of counsel requirement. Few states have changed from Strickland indicating that the standards are fair, but the states that have changed, take a hard stance that the 6th Amendment's right to counsel has not been vindicated because the standards to show ineffective assistance are too high, resulting in only extreme cases finding ineffective assistance of counsel.
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