Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Evidentiary Hearing In California

Claims of ineffective assistance often lend themselves to resolution in an evidentiary hearing. (In re Visciotti (1997) 14 Cal. 4th 325, 335-336, 58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 801, 926 P.2d 987 [referee appointed to resolve disputed factual matters of attorney incompetence]; People v. Duvall, supra, 9 Cal. 4th at p. 486 [referee appointed in order "to determine the truth or falsity of...factual allegations regarding counsel's failure to investigate and present a defense based upon petitioner's alleged diminished mental state"]; People v. Haskett (1982) 30 Cal. 3d 841, 854-855, 180 Cal. Rptr. 640, 640 P.2d 776 [examination may reveal that an attorney is ignorant of the law]; In re Hall, supra, 30 Cal. 3d at pp. 430-432 [following an evidentiary hearing, defense attorney's tactical decision was found to be "dubious"]; People v. Pope, supra, 23 Cal. 3d at p. 426 ["there is an opportunity in an evidentiary hearing to have trial counsel fully describe his or her reasons for acting or failing to act in the manner complained of"].) In addition, hearings are vital to the decision-making process in that litigants are afforded "their only opportunity to orally argue their case and to respond to the court's inquiries through the give-and-take of questioning. . . ." ( Mediterranean Const. Co. v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. (1998) 66 Cal. App. 4th 257, 264; see also Moles v. Regents of University of California (1982) 32 Cal. 3d 867, 872, 187 Cal. Rptr. 557, 654 P.2d 740.) The ever-growing number of individuals serving extensive sentences in penal institutions poses special problems for our courts. As observed by Justice Mosk in his concurring opinion, "The increasing length of prison terms for violent crime also requires a highly reliable fact finding procedure in determining guilt. . . ." ( People v. Jones (1998) 17 Cal. 4th 279, 321, 949 P.2d 890.) For the same reasons, courts have the formidable task to properly review the multifaceted arguments tendered by an ever-increasing number of habeas petitioners. ( People v. Duvall, supra, 9 Cal. 4th at pp. 474-475.) These petitioners generally have had a trial and have been found guilty of some crime. On the other hand, the "'Great Writ'" can be abused. ( McCleskey v. Zant (1991) 499 U.S. 467, 489, 507, 517-518 [113 L. Ed. 2d 517, 541, 553, 560-561, 111 S. Ct. 1454] (dis. opn. of Marshall, J.); In re Clark (1993) 5 Cal. 4th 750, 769, 855 P.2d 729; In re Gatts (1978) 79 Cal. App. 3d 1023, 1035, 145 Cal. Rptr. 419.) Many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel arise from tactical decisions rather than from the denial of fundamental rights. (People v. Knight (1987) 194 Cal. App. 3d 337, 344, 239 Cal. Rptr. 413 [defendant's "buyer's remorse" is not grounds to set aside a plea]; People v. Potter (1978) 77 Cal. App. 3d 45, 49, 143 Cal. Rptr. 379 [defendant accused his defense attorney of "running" for the office of district attorney].) "In determining whether a trial lawyer performed in a manner to be expected of reasonably competent attorneys acting as diligent advocates, appellate courts should be cautious of the apparent intellectual acuity gained by hindsight. Although Monday morning quarterbacking may be stimulating, it is inappropriate when judging lawyers who deal in the demanding and uncertain turf of the courtroom. . . ." ( People v. White (1981) 118 Cal. App. 3d 767, 778, 173 Cal. Rptr. 575.)