Attorney Conduct Review In California

The primary purpose of the requirement that counsel render effective assistance is, "to ensure a fair trial . . . ." (Strickland v. Washington, supra, 466 U.S. 668, 686 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2064, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 692.) Thus, "the benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." (Ibid.; see also People v. Earp (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 826, 870-871 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 857, 978 P.2d 15; People v. Hart (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 546, 623-624 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 132, 976 P.2d 683.) As a court that reviews the conduct of counsel in hindsight, we are reluctant to second-guess tactical decisions made by trial counsel. (People v. Holt (1997) 15 Cal. 4th 619, 703 63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 782, 937 P.2d 213; In re Fields (1990) 51 Cal. 3d 1063, 1069-1070 275 Cal. Rptr. 384, 800 P.2d 862.) We are equally, if not more reluctant, to second-guess the trial court's discretionary ruling that defense counsel's tactical decisions made before it resulted in an unfair trial, i.e., a miscarriage of justice. In this respect, an ineffective assistance claim made in a motion for new trial differs from one raised for the first time on appeal or petition for writ of habeas corpus. "After all, the trial court is in the best position to make an initial determination, and intelligently evaluate whether counsel's acts or omissions were those of a reasonably competent attorney." (People v. Jones (1981) 123 Cal. App. 3d 83, 89 176 Cal. Rptr. 398.)