Sleeping Attorneys Are Still Effective Counsel, Judge Rules

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Want to be a sleeping attorney? Go practice in the 6th Circuit, where counsel is now free to take brief naps during trial without offending a client's constitutional rights.

The court has ruled that Joseph Muniz was not sufficiently prejudiced when his counsel decided to pass out during his cross-examination, even though prosecutors ended up asking him impermissible questions.

Score one for adult naptime.

Muniz filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.

He presented a juror affidavit backing up his claims against his sleeping attorney, who conveniently decided to pass out while prosecutors improperly asked him about the credibility of other witnesses.

Apparently, this is not the first time our nation's appellate courts have dealt with sleeping attorneys.

The 2nd, 5th and 9th Circuits have all considered the question of dozing counsel, finding that a defendant's 6th Amendment rights are only violated when counsel naps through "a substantial portion of [defendant's] trial."

The 6th Circuit was inclined to agree, subsequently finding that Muniz's counsel was only asleep for a "brief period."

Concerned that his obviously useless attack on powernaps was not going to work, Muniz also challenged counsel's effectiveness by claiming that his attorney was high on cocaine for part of the trial.

This didn't work either.

Score one for coked out attorneys everywhere? Eh.

Though this case clearly indicates that being a sleeping attorney won't affect your loss rate, you might not want to pass out in court. Malpractice suits have a much lower standard of proof.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard