In the context of a court-martial, ineffective assistance of counsel refers to a claim by a military defendant that their defense counsel provided them with legal representation that fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that this deficient representation prejudiced the outcome of their case.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), military defendants have the right to be represented by counsel at trial. If a defendant believes that their defense counsel provided them with ineffective assistance, they can raise this claim on appeal. The standard for evaluating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in a court-martial is the two-part test established in Strickland v. Washington, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984.
Under the Strickland test, the defendant must show that their counsel’s performance was deficient and that this deficient performance prejudiced the outcome of the trial. Deficient performance means that the attorney’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and prejudice means that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the deficient performance, the outcome of the trial would have been different.