Standby Counsel Does Not Violate Self-Representation Right

1984

In a 1975 case, Faretta v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that a defendant has a right to represent himself and the Court cannot force counsel on the defendant. However, in McKaskle v. Wiggins, the justices rule that a defendant’s right to represent himself at trial is not violated by the presence of counsel appointed by the court to “stand by” and assist the defendant in following certain courtroom procedures. The Court finds that so long as the standby counsel simply helps the trial proceed more efficiently, and does not cross into taking control of the defendant’s case, the Sixth Amendment is not violated.