Standby counsel is a term used to describe an attorney who has been appointed by a court to advise and assist a pro se defendant. While a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to self-representation, the defendant does not have a constitutional right to standby counsel. Instead, trial courts have the discretion to decide whether to appoint standby counsel to aid a pro se defendant. Moreover, trial courts have wide latitude in defining the precise role and responsibilities of an attorney appointed to act as standby counsel. Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 121(D) and Pennsylvania courts' interpretations of this section primarily govern the appointment of standby counsel. As a result of the flexibility of Pennsylvania law concerning standby counsel, confusion abounds, and pro se defendants have frequently resorted to raising ineffective assistance of standby counsel claims.

This Comment seeks to analyze the current state of the law regarding pro se defendants, standby counsel, and ineffective assistance of counsel claims by focusing on Pennsylvania case law. First, this Comment discusses the relevant constitutional and statutory sources of both United States and Pennsylvania law regarding the right to self-representation, the role of standby counsel, and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Thereafter, this Comment analyzes the inconsistencies and problems that exist in Pennsylvania as a result of the gaps in the current law. Finally, this Comment calls for specific reform of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, which would address much of the confusion and inconsistency regarding the responsibilities of standby counsel.



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