Florida Criminal Procedure

Rules, Statutes, and Cases on Florida Criminal Procedure by Joe Bodiford, J.D., LL.M.

3.112. Minimum standards for attorneys in capital cases

criminal defense

(a) Statement of Purpose. The purpose of these rules is to set minimum standards for attorneys in capital cases to help ensure that competent representation will be provided to capital defendants in all cases. Minimum standards that have been promulgated concerning representation for defendants in criminal cases generally and the level of adherence to such standards required for noncapital cases should not be adopted as sufficient for death penalty cases. Counsel in death penalty cases should be required to perform at the level of an attorney reasonably skilled in the specialized practice of capital representation, zealously committed to the capital case, who has had adequate time and resources for preparation. These minimum standards for capital cases are not intended to preclude any circuit from adopting or maintaining standards having greater requirements.

(b) Definitions. A capital trial is defined as any first-degree murder case in which the State has not formally waived the death penalty on the record. A capital appeal is any appeal in which the death penalty has been imposed. A capital postconviction proceeding is any postconviction proceeding where the defendant is still under a sentence of death.

(c) Applicability. This rule applies to all defense counsel handling capital trials and capital appeals, who are appointed or retained on or after July 1, 2002. Subdivision (k) of this rule applies to all lead counsel handling capital postconviction cases, who are appointed or retained on or after April 1, 2015.

(d) List of Qualified Conflict Counsel.
(1) Every circuit shall maintain a list of conflict counsel qualified for appointment in capital cases in each of three categories:
(A) lead trial counsel;
(B) trial co-counsel; and
(C) appellate counsel.
(2) The chief judge for each circuit shall maintain a list of qualified counsel pursuant to section 27.40(3)(a), Florida Statutes.

(e) Appointment of Counsel. A court must appoint lead counsel and, upon written application and a showing of need by lead counsel, should appoint co-counsel to handle every capital trial in which the defendant is not represented by retained counsel. Lead counsel shall have the right to select co-counsel from attorneys on the lead counsel or co-counsel list. Both attorneys shall be reasonably compensated for the trial and sentencing phase. Except under extraordinary circumstances, only one attorney may be compensated for other proceedings. In capital cases in which the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel is appointed, the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel shall designate lead and co-counsel.

(f) Lead Trial Counsel. Lead trial counsel assignments should be given to attorneys who:
(1) are members of the bar admitted to practice in the jurisdiction or admitted to practice pro hac vice; and
(2) are experienced and active trial practitioners with at least five years of litigation experience in the field of criminal law; and
(3) have prior experience as lead counsel in no fewer than nine state or federal jury trials of serious and complex cases which were tried to completion, as well as prior experience as lead defense counsel or co-counsel in at least two state or federal cases tried to completion in which the death penalty was sought. In addition, of the nine jury trials which were tried to completion, the attorney should have been lead counsel in at least three cases in which the charge was murder; or alternatively, of the nine jury trials, at least one was a murder trial and an additional five were felony jury trials; and
(4) are familiar with the practice and procedure of the criminal courts of the jurisdiction; and
(5) are familiar with and experienced in the utilization of expert witnesses and evidence, including but not limited to psychiatric and forensic evidence; and
(6) have demonstrated the necessary proficiency and commitment which exemplify the quality of representation appropriate to capital cases, including but not limited to the investigation and presentation of evidence in mitigation of the death penalty; and
(7) have attended within the last two years a continuing legal education program of at least twelve hours’ duration devoted specifically to the defense of capital cases.

(g) Co-counsel. Trial co-counsel assignments should be given to attorneys who:
(1) are members of the bar admitted to practice in the jurisdiction or admitted to practice pro hac vice; and
(2) qualify as lead counsel under paragraph (f) of these standards or meet the following requirements:
(A) are experienced and active trial practitioners with at least three years of litigation experience in the field of criminal law; and (B) have prior experience as lead counsel or cocounsel in no fewer than three state or federal jury trials of serious and complex cases which were tried to completion, at least two of which were trials in which the charge was murder; or alternatively, of the three jury trials, at least one was a murder trial and one was a felony jury trial; and
(C) are familiar with the practice and procedure of the criminal courts of the jurisdiction; and
(D) have demonstrated the necessary proficiency and commitment which exemplify the quality of representation appropriate to capital cases, and
(E) have attended within the last two years a continuing legal education program of at least twelve hours’ duration devoted specifically to the defense of capital cases.

(h) Appellate Counsel. Appellate counsel assignments should be given to attorneys who:
(1) are members of the bar admitted to practice in the jurisdiction or admitted to practice pro hac vice; and
(2) are experienced and active trial or appellate practitioners with at least five years of experience in the field of criminal law; and
(3) have prior experience in the appeal of at least one case where a sentence of death was imposed, as well as prior experience as lead counsel in the appeal of no fewer than three felony convictions in federal or state court, at least one of which was an appeal of a murder conviction; or alternatively, have prior experience as lead counsel in the appeal of no fewer than six felony convictions in federal or state court, at least two of which were appeals of a murder conviction; and
(4) are familiar with the practice and procedure of the appellate courts of the jurisdiction; and
(5) have demonstrated the necessary proficiency and commitment which exemplify the quality of representation appropriate to capital cases; and
(6) have attended within the last two years a continuing legal education program of at least twelve hours’ duration devoted specifically to the defense of capital cases.

(i) Notice of Appearance. An attorney who is retained or appointed in place of the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel to represent a defendant in a capital case shall immediately file a notice of appearance certifying that he or she meets the qualifications of this rule. If the office of the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel is appointed to represent the defendant, the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel shall certify that the individuals or assistants assigned as lead and co-counsel meet the requirements of this rule. A notice of appearance filed under this rule shall be served on the defendant.

(j) Limitation on Caseloads.
(1) Generally. As soon as practicable, the trial court should conduct an inquiry relating to counsel’s availability to provide effective assistance of counsel to the defendant. In assessing the availability of prospective counsel, the court should consider the number of capital or other cases then being handled by the attorney and any other circumstances bearing on the attorney’s readiness to provide effective assistance of counsel to the defendant in a timely fashion. No appointment should be made to an attorney who may be unable to provide effective legal representation as a result of an unrealistically high caseload. Likewise, a private attorney should not undertake the representation of a defendant in a capital case if the attorney’s caseload is high enough that it might impair the quality of legal representation provided to the defendant.
(2) Public Defender. If a Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel seeks to refuse appointment to a new capital case based on a claim of excessive caseload, the matter should be referred to the Chief Judge of the circuit or to the administrative judge as so designated by the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge or his or her designate should coordinate with the Public Defender or Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel to assess the number of attorneys involved in capital cases, evaluate the availability of prospective attorneys, and resolve any representation issues.
(Note that subdivision (k) applies to attorneys appointed or retained after April 1, 2015.)

(k) Qualifications of Lead Counsel in Capital Postconviction Proceedings. In order to serve as lead counsel, as set forth in rule 3.851, for the defendant in a capital postconviction proceeding, an attorney shall have:
(1) been a member of any bar for at least 5 years; and
(2) at least 3 years of experience in the field of postconviction
litigation; and
(3) prior participation in a combined total of 5 proceedings in any of the following areas, at least 2 of which shall be from subdivision (k)(3)(C), (k)(3)(D), or (k)(3)(E) below:
(A) capital trials;
(B) capital sentencings;
(C) capital postconviction evidentiary hearings;
(D) capital collateral postconviction appeals;
(E) capital federal habeas proceedings.

(l) Exceptional Circumstances. In the event that the trial court determines that exceptional circumstances require counsel not meeting the requirements of this rule, the trial court shall enter an order specifying, in writing, the exceptional circumstances requiring deviation from the rule and the court’s explicit determination that counsel chosen will provide competent representation in accord with the policy concerns of the rule.

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