Rules Clarified On Identifying Lawyers’ Conflicts Of Interest

1980

In Cuyler v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court clarifies the rules for deciding whether a defense attorney representing multiple defendants has a conflict of interest that violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The Court rules that a defendant can argue his right to effective counsel was violated whether he is paying for his attorney or has court-appointed counsel. The Court also says representing multiple defendants is not always prohibited. A trial court, it says, can decide if the circumstances require further investigation of a possible conflict. Additionally, the defendant need show only that his attorney’s conduct was adversely affected by a conflict, not that the outcome of the trial would have been different.