Volume 75, Number 3

June 2000

The Role of Standby Counsel in Criminal Cases: In the Twilight Zone of the Criminal Justice System

Anne Bowen Poulin

In this Article, Professor Anne Poulin explores the role of standby counsel appointed to assist pro se defendants in criminal cases. Many courts and attorneys assume that acting as standby counsel entails less work than serving as lead counsel and that an active standby counsel would threaten the defendant’s right to selfrepresentation. Professor Poulin argues instead that a properly functioning standby counsel actually shoulders a greater burden than normal, following the case from pretrial procedures through sentencing, and not only providing assistance when the defendant asks, but also remaining alert for issues that the defendant missed. Professor Poulin concludes that a standby counsel must act as a shadow counsel, preparing the case as full as if she were the lead counsel.