Massaro v. United States

PETITIONER: Massaro
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 01-1559
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 538 US 500 (2003)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 2003
DECIDED: Apr 23, 2003

ADVOCATES:
David A. Lewis - for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
David M. Porter - for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Herald Price Fahringer - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Sri Srinivasan - Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Joseph Massaro was indicted on federal racketeering charges, including murder in aid of racketeering. Though prosecutors found a bullet before the trial began and did not inform the defense until the trial was underway, defense counsel declined more than once the trial court's offer of a continuance so the bullet could be examined. Subsequently, Massaro was convicted. On direct appeal, Massaro but did not raise an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Massaro later moved to vacate his conviction, under 28 USC section 2255, based on an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim. The District Court found his claim procedurally defaulted because he could have raised it on direct appeal. In affirming, the Court of Appeals concluded that, when the defendant is represented by new counsel on appeal and the ineffective-assistance claim is based solely on the trial record, the claim must be raised on direct appeal.

Question

Must claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, whether or not there is new counsel on appeal and whether or not the basis for the claim is apparent from the trial record, be raised on direct appeal?

Media for Massaro v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 2003 in Massaro v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 23, 2003 in Massaro v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 01-1559 Massaro against United States will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The United States Court of Appeals are divided on the rules pertaining to those convicted of federal crimes who wish to raise claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Some courts insisted it would be done only on collateral review, others the Second and Seventh Circuits hold that in some instances an ineffective assistance claim is procedurally defaulted if it is not brought on direct appeal.

Those Circuits hold that the claim must be brought on the direct appeal if the basis for it appears in the trial record and the appellate counsel is new counsel i.e. not the trial counsel.

We think the better rule is to allow the claim to be brought on collateral review in all instances.

Our opinion set forth various reasons which can best be summarized as explaining that our rule permits the most efficient allocation of judicial resources.

So, we adopt the rule of the majority of Circuits and we reverse the judgment in this case which comes from the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

We do note that counsels are not precluded from raising ineffective assistance claims on direct review and that an appellate court may note ineffectiveness sua sponte but they are not required to do so.

The opinion is unanimous.