Biden-appointed judge allows federal court to seek ineffective assistance in attorney’s lawsuits despite Trump judge’s opposition: Our courts, our battle

Justice Lucy Koh, who was nominated by Biden, cast the decisive vote in a 2-1 decision that allowed an individual to pursue a lawsuit in federal court over ineffective counsel assistance. Troy Ray Emanuel claimed that his attorney in state court improperly pushed him to accept the plea deal and then not appeal. Trump’s judge, Mark Bennett, disputed that claim. The July 2022 decision was in Emmanuel vs Nevin.

What was the case?

A Nevada court has sentenced Troy Ray Emanuel Jr. to up to 35 years after a plea bargain in a serious battery case. Emmanuel later claimed that he had the constitutionally ineffective assistance of a lawyer. He asserted that the lawyer who represented him at trial (Tanneri) provided ineffective assistance by “misleading” him about the deal and whether he would get a similar sentence as the other defendants. He alleged that the referee’s attorney (Nelson) improperly persuaded him not to “withdraw” his petition and then failed to appeal it.

Emmanuel raised these allegations in a petition for a post-conviction pardon that he himself filed in a state district court. However, that court appointed Nelson to represent Emanuel, despite the apparent conflict of interest and Emanuel’s protest. Nelson failed to mention Emanuel’s allegations against him in the memos or at a hearing. Nelson also claimed that Tannery was out of state during a key hearing in state proceedings, although Tannery was elsewhere in court at the time. The judge denied the request for an adjournment and later ruled against Emanuel in his allegations.

Emmanuel appealed to the state Supreme Court. Although it was clear that alleged misconduct by Nelson was a critical issue, the court appointed Nelson to represent Emanuel. After Nelson missed two application deadlines, the court removed Nelson and Emmanuel received a new counsel.

In the “fast-track statement” requested in the case, Emanuel raised several reasons for the cancellation and a new hearing on his allegations. This included the improper appointment and failure of the lower court of Nelson as his counsel Postpone Hearing when Tannery was unavailable or pressured to find him. But Emmanuel’s claims were rejected.

What happened when the case reached the Federal Court?

With his new attorney, Emanuel then filed for post-conviction relief in Federal District Court. As in state court, he claimed that Tannery and Nelson provided him with constitutionally ineffective assistance of attorney throughout the proceedings.

Under federal law, someone like Emanuel must “exhaust” such claims in state court before they are considered by a federal court. This effectively means that the state Supreme Court must have a “full opportunity to resolve” constitutional cases.

The state maintained that Emanuel had not properly exhausted his allegations, because his fast-track statement focused on the improper appointment of Nelson and other procedural flaws in the state’s post-conviction proceedings. The Federal District Court agreed and rejected Emanuel’s allegations. Appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

What did the ninth district do?

In a 2-1 decision in which Judge Koh cast the decisive vote, the Ninth Circuit reversed. The majority explained that “our precedent” makes clear that when “procedural errors” contaminate state action after conviction as in this case, the petitioner may “satisfy the condition of exhaustion” by “identifying those errors on appeal and seeking pretrial detention.” Emmanuel did just that.

In dissent, Trump Judge Bennett claimed that the majority precedent did not apply because courts there dismissed the same case on faulty procedural reasons. But as the majority wrote, “there is no meaningful distinction” between such cases and this one, with the state court making erroneous procedural rulings that “prevented the petitioner from developing facts to support his claims.” In addition, the majority noted that it was “unreasonable” and “futile” to require a “petitioner like Emmanuel” to fully advance the merits of his constitutional claims when errors of the state court rendered him “unable to make a realistic, meaningful development.”

While it made clear that it did not express an opinion on the merits of Emanuel’s constitutional claims, the majority returned the case to the Federal District Court. There, he shall have a full and fair opportunity to present evidence and to present his allegations of a violation of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of a lawyer.

Why is the decision and Judge Koh’s vote important?

Often, the basic right of the poor to receive effective help is counseling violated in state criminal proceedings. The whole purpose of allowing people like Emmanuel to bring these kinds of claims to federal courts after government remedies have been exhausted is to serve as an examination of state abuse of such important constitutional rights.

Voting scheduled for Judge Koh Fe Emmanuel The case exonerated this important principle. Opposing Trump Judge Bennett would have done the opposite and denied Emmanuel the opportunity to present his allegations fairly. The case provides another example of the importance of urgently confirming fair Biden candidates like Judge Koh in our federal courts.