How does conflict of interest impact habeas corpus cases? Find out here.
An adjunct to the right to effective assistance of counsel is the right to be represented by an attorney who is free of any conflict of interest. See Wood v. Georgia, 450 U.S. 261, 271 (1981); also see Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 345-50 (1980); in addition, see Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 70 (1942); then, see State v. Drakeford, 261 Conn. 420, 427 (2002); also see Phillips v. Warden, 220 Conn. 112, 132 (1991); also see State v. Williams, 203 Conn. 159, 167 (1987); State v. Martin, 201 Conn. 74, 78 (1986). This right stems from the “fundamental principle…that an attorney owes an overarching duty of undivided loyalty to [the] client.” Phillips v. Warden, 220 Conn. at 136.
See also ABA Standards for Criminal Justice, Defense Function (3rd Ed. 1993), Standard 4-3.5 Conflicts of Interest, Commentary (“The professional judgment of a lawyer should be exercised, within the bounds of the law, solely for the benefit of his or her client and free of any compromising influences and loyalties”).
Different Types of Conflict
Standard 4-3.5 sets forth the different types of conflicts and should be consulted in identifying, drafting and litigating a conflict of interest claim. The Rules of Professional Conduct also devote considerable attention to conflicts of interest. See Rules 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10 and 1.11. They should likewise be consulted when a conflict of interest claim is being considered for inclusion in the habeas petition.
“In a case of a claimed [actual] conflict of interest…in order to establish a violation of the sixth amendment the [petitioner] has a two-pronged task. He must establish (1) that counsel actively represented conflicting interests and (2) that an actual conflict of interest adversely affected his lawyer’s performance.” (internal quotation marks omitted) Santiago v. Commissioner, 87 Conn. App. 568, 583, cert. denied, 273 Conn. 930 (2005). “To demonstrate an actual conflict of interest, the petitioner must be able to point to specific instances in the record which suggest impairment or compromise of his interests for the benefit of another party…A mere theoretical division of loyalties is not enough.” (Internal quotation marks omitted) Id. at 584. “Once a petitioner has established that there is an actual conflict, he must show that a lapse of representation…resulted from the conflict.” (Internal quotation marks omitted) Id.
When the defendant is denied knowledge of their attorney’s conflict of interest, structural error results because it is impossible to say how the proceedings were affected. See State v. Lopez, 271 Conn. 724, 736-38 (2004).
If you are involved in a habeas corpus case, you should consider contacting an attorney. An attorney can answer your questions, protect your rights, and help you determine the best way to proceed.