The pervasiveness of plea bargaining in our modern justice system has led too many courts to conclude that the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel applies to not guilty pleas. This Note argues that, although the United States Supreme Court has never directly addressed this issue, its decisions inform a Sixth Amendment analysis and indicate that the right to effective assistance of counsel is limited to providing the defendant a fair trial. The Court has suggested that a critical stage at which this right attaches must, in contrast to a not guilty plea, affect the fairness of a defendant’s trial. It has further indicated that a defendant who receives a fair trial after pleading not guilty cannot establish the constitutional prejudice required to demonstrate ineffective assistance. Finally, the past seventy years of Supreme Court Sixth Amendment jurisprudence supports the conclusion that the gravamen of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim is an assertion that the defendant was denied a fair trial.
Leigh Tinmouth, The Fairness of a Fair Trial: Not Guilty Pleas and the Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel, 50 B.C.L. Rev. 1607 (2009), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol50/iss5/12