UW Law Library Repository Logo

Representation by Counsel: Right or Obligation?



Representation by Counsel: Right or Obligation?





Bibliographic Citation

10 Behavioral Sciences & the Law 395 (1992)


Since the Supreme Court's decision in Faretta v. California (1975), courts have generally permitted defendants to represent themselves, as long as they are competent to do so. The problem lies in the definition of competency to waive counsel, which has been vaguely defined by the courts. Little is known about the frequency of, or reasons for, attempts to waive counsel, about the process of forensic evaluation of such competency, and about the success of such attempts. The authors briefly review the case law on competency to waive representation, report on a longitudinal prospective study of these issues in a population of defendants referred to an inpatient forensic facility for evaluation of all types of competency related to their criminal prosecutions, and discuss the significance of the issue for forensic clinicians. A key question for courts, lawyers, and clinicians is whether a competency evaluation can be invoked to overcome a defendant's constitutional rights to self-representation and bail.