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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Kent A. Russell

Habeas Hints: Understanding and Satisfying the Strickland Test for IAC

by Kent Russell and Tara Hoveland, attorneys

This column provides “Habeas Hints” to prisoners who are considering or handling habeas corpus petitions as their own attorneys (“in pro per”). The focus of the column is on state habeas corpus and on “AEDPA,” the federal habeas corpus law that now governs habeas corpus practice in courts throughout the United States.


Understanding and Satisfying the Strickland Test for IAC

The landmark case of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), establishes that ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) claims require two showings: (1) Deficient Performance (What went wrong?); and (2) Prejudice (So what?). In this column, we’ll deconstruct these core requirements and give you guidance on how to satisfy them.

IAC: Deficient Performance

To show deficient performance pursuant to Strickland, your lawyer’s overall conduct of the defense must have fallen below “an objective standard of reasonableness ... under prevailing professional norms.” That is, your lawyer performed, contrary to your best interests, in a way that a reasonable lawyer would not have. To evaluate such a claim, the court will presume that your lawyer “rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.” To ...


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