Skip to content
Name: Kowalski v. Tesmer
Case #: 03-407
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 12/13/2004
Subsequent History: Cross-cites: 125 S.Ct. 564; 160 L.Ed.2d 519

Attorneys lack third-party standing to assert the rights of indigent defendants who have been denied appointed appellate counsel. A Michigan state law precludes the appointment of counsel in most appeals following guilty pleas. Two attorneys and several indigent defendants filed suit in federal court challenging the law, but a lower court found that the claims of the indigent defendants were barred by the abstention doctrine. The United States Supreme Court held that the attorneys lacked standing to bring the challenge in federal court, because a hypothetical future attorney-client relationship was not a sufficiently close relationship to allow the attorneys to assert the rights of the indigent defendants in federal court. Further, the attorneys had not demonstrated that the ability of the indigents to assert their own claim was sufficiently hindered to allow third-party standing.