People v. Ross

Christopher Ross was adjudicated delinquent in a bench trial based on the testimony of a single witness. Subsequently, following a Ginther hearing in which new evidence was presented, the trial judge found Mr. Ross’s counsel ineffective and ordered a new trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court.

Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief at the request of the Michigan Supreme Court to address the legal standard for ineffective assistance of counsel in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. We argued that the right to counsel for youth is secured under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of fundamental fairness in juvenile proceedings. We further argued that fundamental fairness requires: (1) an exacting standard for the effective representation of counsel that accounts for the developmental status of youth, (2) diligent youth-centered representation, and (3) a rebuttable presumption of prejudice. By contrast, under the Sixth Amendment’s Strickland standard the requirement that criminal defendants prove prejudice creates an unduly heavy burden for youthful defendants.

The Michigan Supreme Court held that Mr. Ross received ineffective assistance of counsel under the Strickland standard and declined to address a juvenile-specific standard for ineffective assistance of counsel.