The Mickens Rule - Conflicts of Interest Challenges

In People v. Doolin (2009) 45 Cal.4th 390, the California Supreme Court held that conflict of interest claims under the California Constitution are to be analyzed under the standard articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Mickens v. Taylor (2002) 535 U.S. 162, and described the rule of Mickens thus: "In Mickens, the high court confirmed that claims of Sixth Amendment violation based on conflicts of interest are a category of ineffective assistance of counsel claims that, under Strickland v. Washington (1984) 466 U.S. 668, 694, generally require a defendant to show (1) counsel's deficient performance, and (2) a reasonable probability that, absent counsel's deficiencies, the result of the proceeding would have been different. " (Doolin, 45 Cal.4th at p. 417; see also Mickens, 535 U.S. at p. 166.) An exception to this general rule exists, however, and prejudice is presumed, "where assistance of counsel has been denied entirely or during a critical stage of the proceeding. When that has occurred, the likelihood that the verdict is unreliable is so high that a case-by-case inquiry is unnecessary. But only in 'circumstances of that magnitude' do we forgo individual inquiry into whether counsel's inadequate performance undermined the reliability of the verdict." (Mickens, supra, 535 U.S. at p. 166.) Such circumstances may exist, for instance, "when the defendant's attorney actively represented conflicting interests." (Ibid.) Interpreting this exception to the general rule requiring a showing of prejudice, the California Supreme Court has concluded that "Strickland provides the appropriate analytic framework for assessing prejudice arising from attorney conflicts of interest outside the context of multiple concurrent representation." (Doolin, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 428.)