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Where client loses "ineffective assistance of counsel" claim, he cannot sue for malpractice

In a recent decision arising out of a misdemeanor criminal conviction, the convicted client and his guardian sued the defense attorney for malpractice, claiming  that the attorney's trial strategies were defective, that he should have presented an alibi defense, and that he improperly influenced the defendant not to call witnesses.  The Court dismissed his and his guardian/relative's malpractice claims on several grounds. 

The Court noted that the guardian did not have an attorney-client relationship with the attorney and thus lacked standing to sue.  It did not explain why the claimant had a guardian or address the degree of his incompetency:  his malpractice claim was brought without the appointment of a Next Friend or other legal representative.

Further, the Court noted that the attorney's strategic exercise of judgment during trial is legally protected from malpractice claims.  Lastly, and perhaps most explicitly, when the client lost his "ineffective assistance of counsel" claim during the appeal of his conviction, he lost the right to sue for malpractice:  the ruling on that issue was a binding decision that "collaterally estopped" the client from claiming malpractice.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262