A Judge’s Duty to Do Justice: Ensuring the Accused’s Right to the Effective Assistance of Counsel

 In Symposium

Every judge takes an oath, similar to the oath federal judges take, to “administer justice” and to “do equal right to the poor and to the rich.” In addition, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which states have adopted, requires a judge to “accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding . . . the right to be heard according to law.” While a judge’s oath and the Code of Judicial Conduct provide some general guidance about a judge’s duty to do justice, the ABA Criminal Justice Standards Regarding Special Functions of the Trial Judge provide more specific guidance about what it means to “administer justice” by stating “[t]he trial judge has the responsibility for safeguarding both the rights of the accused and the interests of the public in the administration of criminal justice.” The ABA Criminal Justice Standards further explain this duty: “The adversary nature of the proceedings does not relieve the trial judge of the obligation of raising on his or her initiative, at all appropriate times and in an appropriate manner, matters which may significantly promote a just determination of the trial.”

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