Brief Fact Summary. Appellee claims ineffective assistance of counsel following a trial in which his attorney refused to allow him to lie on the stand.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The limits of the Sixth Amendment right to “effective counsel.”
Issue. Is a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel violated when an attorney refuses to allow defendant to present perjured testimony at trial?
Held. No. In this unanimous opinion, Justice Burger writes that a defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights do not include “the right to have a lawyer who will cooperate with planned perjury.” A client’s expression of his intention to commit a crime is not a protected communication.
Brennan: This case could have been decided without the Court’s “essay” on this subject, and the majority of this opinion should be treated as dicta.
Blackmun: Appellee has completely failed to demonstrate any “actual prejudice” to his case as a result of his lawyer’s actions as per the Strickland standard, and the case could have just as easily been disposed of on these grounds.
Discussion. This fairly straightforward holding suggests that an attorney should withdraw representation and report a client’s intent to perjure himself whenever such a course of action is insisted upon.