Type of Culminating Activity

Graduate Student Project

Graduation Date


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice


Criminal Justice

Major Advisor

Craig Hemmens


The purpose of this research project is to complete an exhaustive review of the U.S. Supreme Court cases in which the Court ruled on ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims. The cases are examined to study how the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitutional right to effective counsel. Further, I examined how the standard for judging IAC claims has evolved since its first recognition by the Supreme Court. There are 46 decisions by the Court that address IAC claims. In addition to reviewing the case law, relevant law reviews and social science academic journal articles are examined and incorporated in the research to assist in understanding and explaining the importance of IAC claims, critiquing the standards by the courts, and the consequences of not improving the issue. Further, a theoretical discussion borrowing from Black’s (1976) notion that law is governmental social control is included as a means of contextualizing a discussion of the poor and indigent defense counsel. The research indicates that the Supreme Court has made progress in defining IAC claims, but has not yet created the concrete language needed to set a realistic bar from which to judge the standard set forth in the Strickland (1984) decision.