“…[L]et’s Kill All the Lawyers”

December 21, 2023

“…[L]et’s Kill All the Lawyers”

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” stands out among William Shakespeare’s most famous one-liners. In his play Henry IV, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2, the character “Dick The Butcher” suggests one of the ways the pretenders to the throne can improve their chances is to first kill all the lawyers. The line is often used out of context to cast lawyers under a false light, but it was Shakespeare’s intent to praise lawyers for protecting society against abuse of power.

When Lawyers Fail to Lawyer…

On November 22, 2023, a Fourth District Court of Appeal issued an opinion in Teets v. State, — So.3d —- (2023), 2023 WL 8103446, reversing Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Judge Ernest A. Kollra, Jr. (Broward County), who denied a motion for post-conviction relief filed under Rule 3.850 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Defendant-Appellant Royce Teets claimed that he would have accepted the state prosecutor’s plea offer had his counsel properly advised him that he was facing a 30-year sentence on two counts, rather than give him false hope about a “stand your ground” defense. The appellate panel concluded that the claim is “legally sufficient and not refuted by the record,” remanding for the circuit court judge to hold an evidentiary hearing. Teets at *1. The recent decision in Teets cited no supporting case precedents, but it finds strong support from the landmark Supreme Court decision in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) (two-part standard applies to challenges based on the ineffective assistance of counsel and requires showing that the representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the lawyer’s unprofessional errors, the case outcome would have been different). See also Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”)

Dispelling a Myth

There exists a myth that criminal defense lawyers always avoid exposing other lawyers when their peers fail to provide proper advice, but that myth needs to be dispelled. If a man or woman is improperly convicted of a crime, and his or her defense lawyer failed to provide the constitutionally required effective “assistance of counsel” during plea negotiations, trial, sentencing, or appeal, a lawyer who honors the oath to support the Constitution must expose the unprofessional conduct of another lawyer. See Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar (“I do solemnly swear: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida…”). It is nothing less than a sworn duty to expose the ineffective assistance of counsel.


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