Use Caution When Arguing Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Last week, Justice Quinn of the 7th District Court of Appeals (Amarillo) very thinly masked his disgust in a three-page opinion (designated for publication) aimed at an appellant and his attorney who claimed that the trial defense counsel had been ineffective.  A shot across the bow to other would-be appellate attorneys who might be considering an ineffective assistance challenge, Justice Quinn warns “It ain’t a game folks; it’s real lives we are dealing with.”

The opinion (Nanez v. State) is short enough to read in about two minutes so I won’t reprint much of it, but here is, IMO, the best paragraph:

Counsel is not ineffective simply because he did not do that which his accuser thought he should have done. Nor is he legally deficient simply because some attorney who enjoys the benefit of hindsight and cool reflection would have taken a different tact. Indeed, appellate counsel should not only recognize what is required by law but also use caution when calling someone ineffective. Those before us today should heed that admonishment when next they think about invoking the theory. Unfounded and undeveloped accusations like those uttered at bar needlessly belittle their human target and do little to serve a client’s interests. It “ain’t” a game folks; it’s real lives we are dealing with.