Volume 55

The Continuing Duty in Reality: A Preliminary Empirical Look

by David M. Siegel & Tigran W. Eldred

The continuing duty of criminal defense counsel to their former clients, even when those former clients bring post-conviction actions alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, has existed as a national practice standard in capital cases since at least 1987. In addition to its inclusion in the ABA’s Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases since 1989, duties to former clients exist in state ethics rules as well as the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The duty has been further operationalized in non-capital litigation through a 2010 ABA formal ethics opinion concerning disclosures by trial counsel to prosecutors in ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims, case law and scholarship. There are no empirical data concerning its operation in practice, and these are difficult to obtain because much of the continuing duty operates through informal practices. This paper describes the results of a brief survey intended to develop these data.

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