United States v. Gregory Olson (9th Cir. February 2021)

The Federal Docket

March 5, 2021

Ineffective Assistance – The Ninth Circuit suggests that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel may apply to a defense lawyer’s failure to communicate a pre-indictment plea offer to a client who is the target of an investigation.

The Court denied a defendant’s appeal from a 2255 motion alleging his counsel was ineffective for failure to inform him of a pre-indictment plea when he was the target of an investigation. The attorney had provided notes and other evidence affirming he had notified the client.

The Court ultimately held that circuit precedent held the right to effective counsel under the Sixth Amendment does not attach until formal charges are filed, and this was not the case to reconsider those precedents, but the Court left open the idea that there could be cases where the right to counsel attaches before indictment, especially if there are pre-indictment plea negotiations.

Concurring, Judge Thomas wrote that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel should attach when there is a “functional equivalent of an indictment,” and Judge Berzon concurred that the Ninth Circuit’s prior opinion Hayes should be reconsidered.

Appeal from the District of Nevada
Per Curiam Opinion by Thomas, Schroeder, Berzon

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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