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Trump Judge’s Dissent Ignores 6th Amendment Rights in Ineffective Counsel Case: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

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Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties. Cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.

In January 2020, Trump Ninth Circuit judge Eric Miller dissented in a 2-1 decision in a case regarding a criminal defendant’s claim that his counsel was inadequate under the Constitution. The case is USA v. Hamilton.

Anthony Hamilton was convicted of several counts of robbery and was sentenced to 270 years in prison. During sentencing, Hamilton indicated he was not satisfied with his attorney; his attorney acknowledged that some conflict existed.

Hamilton challenged his conviction and sentence in district court on several grounds, including ineffective assistance of counsel.  Hamilton lost and appealed.

The majority sided with Hamilton and remanded the case for further inquiry into the nature of Hamilton’s dissatisfaction with his attorney, explaining that when such conflict exists, the district court should question counsel or the client privately to inquire further.

Judge Eric Miller disagreed, asserting that although it is good practice to inquire further about a conflict between attorney and client, case law does not require further inquiry under those circumstances; therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion.