Oral argument: Oct. 4, 2010
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Jan. 11, 2010)
Petitioner Luis Mariano Martinez, a convicted felon serving consecutive terms of 35 years to life, filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking relief in federal court. Martinez alleges that his trial counsel provided him with ineffective assistance. Because his appellate counsel failed to raise that ineffective-assistance claim in the first state post-conviction proceeding, an Arizona court precluded the claim on procedural grounds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Martinez did not have the right to counsel during his post-conviction proceeding, and concluded that he may not claim ineffective assistance at that stage in order to overcome his procedural default. Consequently, Martinez is barred from raising his ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim, regardless of whether his post-conviction counsel rendered him ineffective assistance and caused the procedural default that precluded his trial-level claim. Martinez argues that he has a constitutional right to effective assistance of post-conviction counsel in raising his ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim; he concludes that ineffective post-conviction counsel should negate the procedural default with respect to his ineffective-trial-counsel claim in this federal habeas proceeding. Respondent Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, asserts that defendants do not have a right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings, concluding from this that the ineffective assistance of Martinez’s post-conviction counsel cannot negate his procedural default. In this decision, the Supreme Court will have to weigh the possibility that poorly-represented defendants will lose ineffective-assistance claims due to procedural defaults against the benefits of efficient state criminal proceedings.