Standby Counsel Law & Legal Definition


A standby counsel means a lawyer or attorney who is appointed to assist a client who has invoked his/her right to self-representation. A standby counsel is not an amicus curiae, instead s/he is an assistant who will serve to safeguard a fair and expeditious trial. The standby counsel will provide guidance and advice to such client during self-representation. A standby counsel is appointed in situations where the client becomes unquiet or otherwise becomes unable to conduct his/her own defense. However, standby counsel has no right to interfere with the client's self-representation. A standby counsel is also called as an advisory counsel.

A counsel-client privilege applies to all correspondences and communications between the accused and standby counsel. Just like any other counsel, a standby counsel has the same obligation to protect the interest of the accused that s/he represents.

In State v. Johnson, 756 N.W.2d 682 (Iowa 2008), the court observed that “ Standby counsel is a type of advisory counsel and serves two main purposes: (1) to act as a safety net to ensure that the litigant receives a fair hearing of his claims, and (2) to allow the trial to proceed without the undue delays likely to arise when a layman presents his own case. Standby counsel is particularly important to relieve the judge of the need to explain and enforce basic rules of courtroom protocol or to assist the defendant in overcoming routine obstacles that stand in the way of the defendant's achievement of his own clearly indicated goals. Standby counsel is not the same as co-counsel and does not enjoy the same privileges and obligations as a lawyer who is appointed to represent the defendant as counsel or co-counsel. Advisory counsel is generally used to describe the situation when a pro se defendant is given technical assistance by an attorney in the courtroom, but the attorney does not participate in the actual conduct of the trial. In the co-counsel situation, the attorney may participate directly in the trial proceedings with the defendant (examining witnesses, objecting to evidence, etc.).”