Citation. Jones v. Barnes, 463 U.S. 745, 103 S. Ct. 3308, 77 L. Ed. 2d 987, 1983 U.S. LEXIS 105, 51 U.S.L.W. 5151 (U.S. July 5, 1983)
Brief Fact Summary. Respondent presented his appointed counsel with a list of claims on which to base his appeal. His attorney found these to be untenable, and proceeded to argue the appeal on different grounds. Respondent now claims ineffective assistance of counsel.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Sixth Amendment’s “effective assistance of counsel” standard does not require a court-appointed attorney to argue every nonfrivolous point raised by his client.
Respondent, David Barnes, was convicted of robbery and assault in New York and attorney Michael Melinger was appointed by the court to represent him in his appeal. Respondent sent Melinger a copy of a pro se brief that he had written, along with a letter listing several claims that he felt should be raised in the pending appeal. In his response, Melinger explained that many of these claims would not be allowed-as they were based on evidence not on the record-and listen the seven claims that he was considering, requesting Respondent’s input. Receiving no response, he proceeded to appeal the case on those claims and lost. Respondent challenged this decision, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, and his claim was upheld by the Second Circuit. Issue.
Does court-assigned defense counsel in a criminal case have a constitutional duty to raise every nonfrivolous issue suggested by the Defendant?
Held. No. Reversed.
“No decision of this Court suggests that an indigent defendant has a constitutional right to compel appointed counsel to press nonfrivolous points requested by the client, if counsel, as a matter of professional judgment, decides not to present those points.