By Alexandr Satanovsky
In a 5-4 decision per Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court extended the Martinez exception to states, like Texas, whose "procedural framework, by reason of its design and operation, makes it highly unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel on direct appeal."
Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Alito) dissented, arguing that Martinez should be limited to its terms, applying only to states that deliberately bar defendants from using direct review to assert claims of ineffecitve assistance of trial counsel. Justice Scalia (joined by Thomas) dissented separately, proclaiming vindication of the warnings voiced in his Martinez dissent.
Though this outcome was expected, there was question as to how the Court would articulate an extension of Martinez. On that point, Trevino does not contain particularly groundbreaking language, and is not specific in articulating the broader circumstances to which Martinez now applies. As such, the Chief Justice is correct in observing that the opinion fails to explain "how meaningful is meaningful enough, how meaningful-ness is to be measured, how unlikely highly unlikely is, how often a procedural framework’s 'operation' must be reassessed, or what case qualifies as the 'typical' case." Thus, Trevino still leaves the door open for states to argue that Martinez does not apply, because their procedural regime is better suited to meaningfully adjudicate IATC claims on direct appeal. To be sure, distinguishing away a state's particular post-conviction structure is going to be more difficult in the wake of Trevino than it was in the wake of Martinez, but that position is still available, and there may well be judges who will endorse it.