Cuyler v. Sullivan Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Respondent challenges his murder conviction on the grounds that his counsel’s representation of his co-defendants presented an unacceptable conflict of interests that denied him effective assistance of counsel.

Facts of the case


Must a state trial judge inquire into the propriety of of multiple representation even if no party raises an objection?


“The possibility of conflict isn’t enough

  • defendant must show that he there was an actual conflict that adversely affected his case. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
    No, a state trial judge has no such obligation. Absent a request to do so from a party, a trial judge is not required to question the propriety of multiple defendants being represented by the same counsel.”



    • Case Brief: 1980
    • Petitioner: Cuyler
    • Respondent: Sullivan
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 446 US 335 (1980)
    Argued: Feb 20, 1980
    Decided: May 12, 1980