MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioners, codefendants at trial, made timely motions for appointment of separate counsel, based on the representations of their appointed counsel that, because of confidential information received from the codefendants, he was confronted with the risk of representing conflicting interests and could
Early in the morning of June 1, 1975, three men entered a Little Rock, Ark., restaurant and robbed and terrorized the five employees of the restaurant. During the course of the robbery, one of the two female employees was raped once; the other, twice. The ensuing police investigation led to the arrests of the petitioners.
On July 29, 1975, the three defendants were each charged with one count of robbery and two counts of rape. On August 5, the trial court appointed Harold Hall, a public defender, to represent all three defendants. Petitioners were then arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Two days later, their cases were set for a consolidated trial to commence September 4.
On August 13, Hall moved the court to appoint separate counsel for each petitioner because "the defendants ha[d] stated to him that there is a possibility of a conflict of interest in each of their cases . . . ." After conducting a hearing on this motion, and on petitioners' motions for a severance, the court declined to appoint separate counsel.
Before trial, the same judge who later presided at petitioners' trial conducted a Jackson v. Denno hearing
On September 4, before the jury was empaneled, Hall renewed the motion for appointment of separate counsel "on the grounds that one or two of the defendants may testify and, if they do, then I will not be able to cross-examine them because I have received confidential information from them." The court responded, "I don't know why you wouldn't," and again denied the motion.
The prosecution then proceeded to present its case. The manager of the restaurant identified petitioners Holloway and Campbell as two of the robbers. Another male employee identified Holloway and petitioner Welch. A third identified only Holloway. The victim of the single rape identified Holloway and Welch as two of the robbers but was unable to identify the man who raped her. The victim of the double rape identified Holloway as the first rapist. She was unable to identify the second rapist but identified Campbell as one of the robbers.
On the second day of trial, after the prosecution had rested its case, Hall advised the court that, against his recommendation, all three defendants had decided to testify. He then stated:
The court then indicated satisfaction that each petitioner understood the nature and consequences of his right to testify on his own behalf, whereupon Hall observed:
Holloway took the stand on his own behalf, testifying that during the time described as the time of the robbery he was at his brother's home. His brother had previously given similar testimony. When Welch took the witness stand, the record shows Hall advised him, as he had Holloway, that "I cannot ask you any questions that might tend to incriminate any one of the three of you . . . . Now, the only thing I can say is tell these ladies and gentlemen of the jury what you know about this case . . . ." Welch responded that he did not "have any kind of speech ready for the jury or anything. I thought I was going to be questioned." When Welch denied, from the witness stand, that he was at the restaurant the night of the robbery, Holloway interrupted, asking:
Welch proceeded with his unguided direct testimony, denying any involvement in the crime and stating that he was at his home at the time it occurred. Campbell gave similar testimony
The jury rejected the versions of events presented by the three defendants and the alibi witness, and returned guilty verdicts on all counts. On appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, petitioners raised the claim that their representation by a single appointed attorney, over their objection, violated federal constitutional guarantees of effective assistance of counsel. In resolving this issue, the court relied on what it characterized as the majority rule:
Turning to the record in the case, the court observed that Hall had failed to outline to the trial court both the nature of the confidential information received from his clients and the manner in which knowledge of that information created conflicting loyalties. Because none of the petitioners had incriminated codefendants while testifying, the court concluded that the record demonstrated no actual conflict of interests or prejudice to the petitioners, and therefore affirmed.
More than 35 years ago, in Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60 (1942), this Court held that by requiring an attorney to represent two codefendants whose interests were in conflict the District Court had denied one of the defendants his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. In that case the Government tried five codefendants in a joint trial for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Two of the defendants, Glasser and Kretske, were represented initially by separate counsel. On the second day of trial, however, Kretske became dissatisfied with his attorney and dismissed him. The District Judge thereupon asked Glasser's attorney, Stewart, if
Glasser contended in this Court that Stewart's representation at trial was ineffective because of a conflict between the interests of his two clients. This Court held that "the `assistance of counsel' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment contemplates that such assistance be untrammeled and unimpaired by a court order requiring that one lawyer should simultaneously represent conflicting interests." Id., at 70. The record disclosed that Stewart failed to cross-examine a Government witness whose testimony linked Glasser with the conspiracy and failed to object to the admission of arguably inadmissible evidence. This failure was viewed by the Court as a result of Stewart's desire to protect Kretske's interests, and was thus "indicative of Stewart's struggle to serve two masters . . . ." Id., at 75. After identifying this conflict of interests, the Court declined to inquire whether the prejudice flowing from it was harmless and instead ordered Glasser's conviction reversed. Kretske's conviction, however, was affirmed.
One principle applicable here emerges from Glasser without ambiguity. Requiring or permitting a single attorney to represent codefendants, often referred to as joint representation, is not per se violative of constitutional guarantees of effective assistance of counsel. This principle recognizes that in some cases multiple defendants can appropriately be represented by one attorney; indeed, in some cases, certain advantages might accrue from joint representation. In Mr. Justice Frankfurter's view: "Joint representation is a means of insuring against reciprocal recrimination. A common defense often
Since Glasser was decided, however, the courts have taken divergent approaches to two issues commonly raised in challenges to joint representation where—unlike this case—trial counsel did nothing to advise the trial court of the actuality or possibility of a conflict between his several clients' interests. First, appellate courts have differed on how strong a showing of conflict must be made, or how certain the reviewing court must be that the asserted conflict existed, before it will conclude that the defendants were deprived of their right to the effective assistance of counsel. Compare United States ex rel. Hart v. Davenport, 478 F.2d 203 (CA3 1973); Lollar v. United States, 126 U. S. App. D. C. 200, 376 F.2d 243 (1967); People v. Chacon, 69 Cal.2d 765, 447 P.2d 106 (1968); and State v. Kennedy, 8 Wn.App. 633, 508 P.2d 1386 (1973), with United States v. Lovano, 420 F.2d 769, 773 (CA2 1970); see also cases collected in Annot., 34 A. L. R. 3d 470, 477-507 (1970). Second, courts have differed with respect to the scope and nature of the affirmative duty of the trial judge to assure that criminal defendant are not deprived of their right to the effective assistance of counsel by joint representation of conflicting interests. Compare United States v. Lawriw, 568 F.2d 98 (CA8 1977); United States v. Carrigan, 543 F.2d 1053 (CA2 1976); and United States v. Foster, 469 F.2d 1 (CA1 1972), with Foxworth v. Wainwright, 516 F.2d 1072 (CA5 1975), and United States v. Williams, 429 F.2d 158 (CA8 1970).
This conclusion is supported by the Court's reasoning in Glasser:
This reasoning has direct applicability in this case where the "possibility of [petitioners'] inconsistent interests" was "brought home to the court" by formal objections, motions, and defense counsel's representations. It is arguable, perhaps, that defense counsel might have presented the requests for appointment of separate counsel more vigorously and in greater detail. As to the former, however, the trial court's responses hardly encouraged pursuit of the separate-counsel claim; and as to presenting the basis for that claim in more detail, defense counsel was confronted with a risk of violating, by more disclosure, his duty of confidentiality to his clients.
Additionally, since the decision in Glasser, most courts have held that an attorney's request for the appointment of separate counsel, based on his representations as an officer of the court regarding a conflict of interests, should be granted. See, e. g., Shuttle v. Smith, 296 F.Supp. 1315 (Vt. 1969); State v. Davis, 110 Ariz. 29, 514 P.2d 1025 (1973); State v. Brazile, 226 La. 254, 75 So.2d 856 (1954); but see Commonwealth v. LaFleur, 1 Mass. App. 327, 296 N.E.2d 517 (1973). In so holding, the courts have acknowledged and given effect to several interrelated considerations. An "attorney representing two defendants in a criminal matter is in the best position professionally and ethically to determine when a conflict of interest exists or will probably develop in the course of a trial." State v. Davis, supra, at 31, 514 P. 2d, at 1027. Second, defense attorneys have the obligation, upon discovering a conflict of interests, to advise the court at
The State argues, however, that to credit Hall's representations to the trial court would be tantamount to transferring to defense counsel the authority of the trial judge to rule on the existence or risk of a conflict and to appoint separate counsel. In the State's view, the ultimate decision on those matters must remain with the trial judge; otherwise unscrupulous defense attorneys might abuse their "authority," presumably for purposes of delay or obstruction of the orderly conduct of the trial.
The State has an obvious interest in avoiding such abuses. But our holding does not undermine that interest. When an untimely motion for separate counsel is made for dilatory purposes, our holding does not impair the trial court's ability to
The issue remains whether the error committed at petitioners' trial requires reversal of their convictions. It has generally been assumed that Glasser requires reversal, even in the absence of a showing of specific prejudice to the complaining codefendant, whenever a trial court improperly permits or requires joint representation. See Austin v. Erickson, 477 F.2d 620 (CA8 1973); United States v. Gougis, 374 F.2d 758 (CA7 1967); Hall v. State, 63 Wis.2d 304, 217 N.W.2d 352 (1974); Commonwealth ex rel. Whitling v. Russell, 406 Pa. 45, 176 A.2d 641 (1962); Note, Criminal Codefendants and the Sixth Amendment: The Case for Separate Counsel, 58 Geo. L. J. 369, 387 (1969). Some courts and commentators have argued, however, that appellate courts should not reverse automatically in such cases but rather should affirm unless the defendant can demonstrate prejudice. See United States
We read the Court's opinion in Glasser, however, as holding that whenever a trial court improperly requires joint representation over timely objection reversal is automatic. The Glasser Court stated:
Moreover, this Court has concluded that the assistance of counsel is among those "constitutional rights so basic to a fair trial that their infraction can never be treated as harmless error." Chapman v. California, supra, at 23. Accordingly, when a defendant is deprived of the presence and assistance of his attorney, either throughout the prosecution or during a critical stage in, at least, the prosecution of a capital offense, reversal is automatic. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963); Hamilton v. Alabama, 368 U.S. 52 (1961); White v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 59 (1963).
That an attorney representing multiple defendants with conflicting interests is physically present at pretrial proceedings, during trial, and at sentencing does not warrant departure from this general rule. Joint representation of conflicting interests is suspect because of what it tends to prevent
Finally, a rule requiring a defendant to show that a conflict of interests—which he and his counsel tried to avoid by timely objections to the joint representation—prejudiced him in some specific fashion would not be susceptible of intelligent, even-handed application. In the normal case where a harmless-error rule is applied, the error occurs at trial and its scope is readily identifiable. Accordingly, the reviewing court can undertake with some confidence its relatively narrow task of assessing the likelihood that the error materially affected the deliberations of the jury. Compare Chapman v. California, supra, at 24-26, with Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 108 (1974), and United States v. Valle-Valdez, 554 F.2d 911, 914-917 (CA9 1977). But in a case of joint representation of conflicting interests the evil—it bears repeating—is in what the advocate finds himself compelled to refrain from doing, not only at trial but also as to possible pretrial plea negotiations and in the sentencing process. It may be possible in some cases to identify from the record the prejudice resulting from an attorney's failure to undertake certain trial tasks, but even with a record of the sentencing hearing available it would
Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, dissenting.
While disavowing a per se rule of separate representation, the Court holds today that the trial judge's failure in this case "either to appoint separate counsel or take adequate steps to ascertain whether the risk was too remote to warrant separate counsel" worked a violation of the guarantee of "assistance of counsel" embodied in the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court accepts defense counsel's representations of a possible conflict of interests among his clients and of his inability to conduct effective cross-examination as being adequate to trigger the trial court's duty of inquiry. The trial court should have held an appropriate hearing on defense counsel's motions for separate representation, but our task is to decide whether this omission assumes the proportion of a constitutional violation. Because I cannot agree that, in the particular circumstances of this case, the court's failure to inquire requires reversal of petitioners' convictions, and because the Court's opinion contains seeds of a per se rule of separate representation merely upon the demand of defense counsel, I respectfully dissent.
It is useful to contrast today's decision with the Court's most relevant previous ruling, Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60 (1942). In that case, the trial court ordered Glasser's
Today's decision goes well beyond the limits of Glasser. I agree that the representations made by defense counsel in this case, while not as informative as the affidavit of counsel Stewart in Glasser, were sufficient to bring into play the trial court's duty to inquire further into the possibility of "conflicting interests." I question, however, whether the Constitution is violated simply by the failure to conduct that inquiry, without any additional determination that the record reveals a case of joint representation in the face of "conflicting interests." The Court's approach in this case is not premised on an ultimate finding of conflict of interest or ineffective assistance of counsel. Rather, it presumes prejudice from the failure to conduct an inquiry, equating that failure with a violation of the Sixth Amendment guarantee. The justification for this approach appears to be the difficulty of a post hoc reconstruction of the record to determine whether a different outcome, or even a different defense strategy, might have obtained had the trial court engaged in the requisite inquiry and ordered separate representation. Although such difficulty may be taken into account in the allocation of the burden of persuasion on the questions of conflict and prejudice, see infra,
Several other aspects of the Court's opinion suggest a rule of separate representation upon demand of defense counsel. The Court leaves little room for maneuver for a trial judge who seeks to inquire into the substantiality of the defense counsel's representations. Apparently, the trial judge must order separate representation unless the asserted risk of conflict "was too remote to warrant separate counsel," ante, at 484, a formulation that suggests a minimal showing on the part of defense counsel. The Court also offers the view that defense counsel in this case could not be expected to make the kind of specific proffer that was present in Glasser because of "a risk of violating, by more disclosure, his duty of confidentiality to his clients." Ante, at 485. Although concededly not necessary to a decision in this case, the Court then states that the trial court's inquiry must be conducted "without improperly requiring disclosure of the confidential communications of the client." Ante, at 487, and n. 11.
Recognition of the limits of this Court's role in adding protective layers to the requirements of the Constitution does not detract from the Sixth Amendment obligation to provide separate counsel upon a showing of reasonable probability of need. In my view, a proper accommodation of the interests of defendants in securing effective assistance of counsel and that of the State in avoiding the delay, potential for disruption, and costs inherent in the appointment of multiple counsel,
Since the trial judge in this case failed to inquire into the
Rollie R. Rogers field a brief for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender as amicus curiae.
"Whenever two or more defendants who have been jointly charged, or whose cases have been consolidated, are represented by the same attorney, the trial judge should inquire into potential conflicts which may jeopardize the right of each defendant to the fidelity of his counsel."
There is no occasion in this case to determine the constitutional significance, if any, of the trial court's response to petitioners' midtrial objections.
"Except for preliminary matters such as initial hearing or applications for bail, a lawyer or lawyers who are associated in practice should not undertake to defend more than one defendant in the same criminal case if the duty to one of the defendants may conflict with the duty to another. The potential for conflict of interest in representing multiple defendants is so grave that ordinarily a lawyer should decline to act for more than one of several co-defendants except in unusual situations when, after careful investigation, it is clear that no conflict is likely to develop and when the several defendants give an informed consent to such multiple representation."
"The mere representation of two or more defendants by a single attorney does not automatically give rise to a constitutional deprivation of counsel. It is settled in this Circuit that some specific instance of prejudice, some real conflict of interest, resulting from a joint representation must be shown to exist before it can be said that an appellant has been denied the effective assistance of counsel. United States v. Mari, . . . 526 F. 2d [117,] 119 [(CA2 1975)]; United States v. Vowteras, 500 F.2d 1210, 1211 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1069 . . . (1974); United States v. Wisniewski, 478 F.2d 274, 281 (2d Cir. 1973); United States v. Lovano, 420 F.2d 769, 773 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 397 U.S. 1071 . . . (1970). In all of these cases the trial court had carefully inquired as to the possibility of prejudice and elicited the personal responses of the defendants involved. Here the record is barren of any inquiry by the court or any concern by the Government.
"In United States v. DeBerry, supra, 487 F. 2d, at 453-54, we . . . noted with approval the view of the First Circuit in United States v. Foster, 469 F.2d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1972), that the lack of satisfactory judicial inquiry shifts the burden of proof on the question of prejudice to the Government. 487 F. 2d at 453 n. 6."
Of course, a later motion may be appropriate if the conflict is not known or does not become apparent before trial proceeds. To guard against strategic disruption of the trial, however, the court may require a substantial showing of justification for such midtrial motions.