Competent on Competence - Understanding the Duties and Approaches to Effectively Address a Client’s

Lawyers have an obligation to investigate a client’s possible incompetence and to bring the issue to the attention of the trial court when necessary. John Philipsborn writes that defense lawyers should resist attempts by trial courts to marginalize lawyers’ stated concerns about the client’s competence. Lawyers should be prepared to argue that rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court explain the utility of information on competency. Although some courts have ruled that there may be instances in which the lawyer is not considered ineffective when he or she decides, for “tactical reasons,” not to raise a question about the client’s possible incompetence, other courts have ruled differently. Finally, the lawyer should consider possible negative consequences when deciding how much information to provide regarding the client’s competence.