Evaluating a Claim of Conflict of Interest of a Trial Lawyer

The United States Supreme Court in Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 64 L. Ed. 2d 333, 100 S. Ct. 1708 (1980), set forth a two-pronged standard of proof for a trial court to apply when evaluating a claim of conflict of interest of trial counsel. The Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984), explained: One type of actual ineffectiveness claim warrants a similar, though more limited, presumption of prejudice. In Cuyler v. Sullivan, this Court held that prejudice is presumed when counsel is burdened by an actual conflict of interest. . . . Prejudice is presumed only if the defendant demonstrates that counsel "actively represented conflicting interests" and that "an actual conflict of interest adversely affected his lawyer's performance." Cuyler v. Sullivan, supra, 446 U.S. at 350.