News & Insights

Dykema Co-Authors U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief on Behalf of American Bar

August 17, 2011

ANN ARBOR—Dykema, a leading national law firm, recently co-authored an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the American Bar Association (ABA) in the U.S. Supreme Court cases Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye. In its brief, the ABA urges the Supreme Court to uphold the lower courts' rulings that ineffective assistance of counsel at the plea stage violates a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights.

In Lafler v. Cooper, the defendant rejected the government's plea offer based on his lawyer's incorrect advice on the standard for attempted murder and was convicted at trial. In Missouri v. Frye, the defendant’s lawyer failed to inform him of the government’s misdemeanor plea offer, after which the defendant pleaded guilty to a felony. Both defendants received sentences that were much higher than the plea offers.

"It is rare for the ABA to file an amicus brief, but both cases involve issues of effective representation by attorneys on which the ABA has long-established standards," said Jill M. Wheaton, partner in Dykema's Litigation Department in the Ann Arbor office and co-counsel for the ABA. "We were pleased to be able to assist the ABA in expressing its concerns to the Supreme Court that these defendants' rights were violated when their attorneys did not provide competent representation at the plea stage."

The brief argues the following:Subsequent constitutionally sufficient proceedings – such as a fair trial in Cooper's case or a court’s acceptance of a guilty plea in Frye's case – do not remedy a violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights at the critical plea stage.When ineffective assistance causes a defendant to lose the benefit of an advantageous plea bargain, the court should have discretion to fashion a remedy that is reasonably calculated to place the defendant insofar as possible in the position he would have been in had his Sixth Amendment rights not been violated.Dykema represented the ABA on a pro bono basis. The cases align with the firm's strategy to focus its pro bono efforts on those in the community who are the most significantly disadvantaged or disenfranchised.

In addition to Wheaton, Mark J. Magyar, an associate in Dykema's Grand Rapids office, assisted in co-authoring the ABA's amicus brief. Dykema's co-authors on the amicus brief included the ABA's immediate past president, Stephen N. Zack, the Law Office of Margaret Love, Peter Goldberger Esq., and City University of New York law professor Steven Zeidman.