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Name: United States v. Benford
Case #: 07-50210
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/03/2009

The absence of defense counsel from a short pretrial conference at which the pre-existing trial date was confirmed and at which nothing else of substance happened did not constitute per se ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Appellant’s trial counsel did not arrive in time for the pretrial conference. At the conference, the trial date was confirmed, but nothing else of substance was resolved. At no time was a continuance requested, and the trial began as scheduled on the agreed upon date. On appeal, Benford argued that the lawyer’s absence from the pretrial status conference was per se ineffective assistance of counsel because the conference was a critical stage of the trial. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the status conference was not a critical stage because this particular conference had nothing to do with the merits of the case, and did not result in a resolution of any issue which could not easily have been altered in the future. Therefore, there was no violation of Benford’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.