Smith v. Robbins

LOCATION: Boy Scouts of America

DOCKET NO.: 98-1037
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 528 US 259 (2000)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1999
DECIDED: Jan 19, 2000

Carol F. Jorstad - Los Angeles, California, argued the cause for the petitioner
Ronald J. Nessim - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

In a case study Smith v. Robinson, the Supreme Court presented substantial limitations on the capacity of the students and their families to cover all their legal expenses as indicated by Education of the Handicapped Act. To be exact, the Act's reliance on the private enforcement of the parent demonstrated that Congress assured that the reimbursement of the attorney's fees could be guaranteed. The issue is also connected with the challenges to attempt to provide administrative and legal remedies without particular legal training.

In particular, the Superintendent of Schools in Cumberland affirmed that they would no longer cover the placement of a kid who was suffering from cerebral palsy and other handicaps in a special educational program. Immediately after that, the parents decided to file an action to the Federal District Court, in addition to the appeal of the Superintendent's decision to the local administration. In other words, the action has been filed not only against the School Committee but it also against the state corresponding officials.

Basing on the decision available in this case brief, the District Court has declared that the kid was entitled, due to the matter of the state law, to receive a special education, totally covered by the school administration. In conclusion, it was inappropriate and not necessary to reach the petitioner’s federal statutory or constitutional requirements. Due to the agreement between the parties, the District Court provided the attorney’s fees against the administration of that School. The petitioners also asked for the attorney's fees against the state defendants. Finally, the Court of Appeals admitted the following. If the claims were powerful enough to convince the federal jurisdiction to provide the attorney’s fees, the government could not have intended the elimination of these fees relief under that statute to be amended.


Does California's no-merit brief procedure, in which defense counsel has concluded that an appeal would be frivolous, violate a defendant's right to the effective assistance of appellate counsel?

Media for Smith v. Robbins

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1999 in Smith v. Robbins

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 19, 2000 in Smith v. Robbins

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court, in No. 98-1037, Smith versus Robbins will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Respondent Robbins was convicted of murder and grand theft.

On appeal, his appointed counsel determined that an appeal would be frivolous and therefore filed with the State Appellate Court, a special brief known as a Wende brief.

That court, agreeing with the Counsel’s assessment of the appeal, affirmed.

Respondent, after unsuccessfully pursuing State postconviction relief, sought a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court.

That court granted the writ and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Court of Appeals concluded that our decision in Anders versus California established the exclusive procedure that appellate counsel may follow upon determining that an appeal is frivolous.

It further concluded that respondent’s counsel by following the Wende procedure instead provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

Anders did not establish an exclusive procedure for the States; instead, Anders merely held that in order to vindicate indigent’s right to appellate counsel, states must establish procedures that reasonably ensure that any decision to dismiss an appeal as frivolous or to allow a Counsel to withdraw from an appeal will be made in a way that is related to the merit of that appeal.

Within the broad bounds of the Fourteenth Amendment sets, states are free to experiment.

The procedure that Anders set out is an acceptable one as is the one that we approved over a decade ago in McCoy versus Court of Appeals.

We conclude that the Wende procedure is likewise acceptable.

It is superior to many procedures that we have previously found invalid, and it is on par with the Anders and McCoy procedures.

We further conclude that any claim that counsel acted deficiently in choosing to file a brief pursuant to Wende or some other valid procedure, rather than file a merits brief, is governed by the well-established standards of Strickland versus Washington for determining ineffective assistance of counsel.

In such a case, the indigent appellate has not been deprived of counsel altogether, and there is therefore no reason to exempt that appellate from the usual requirement that he demonstrate prejudice from his counsel’s deficient conduct.

We remand for the Court of Appeals to apply Strickland to respondent’s claim.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg has joined; Justice Souter has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer have joined.