New Rules for Death Row Lawyers

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has adopted new rules to ensure the performance of lawyers who file appeals on behalf of death row inmates.

Under the rules, the judges can remove a lawyer from the court's habeas list for any appeal that exhibits "substandard proficiency."

Lawyers also can be removed for engaging in unprofessional behavior or for providing poor legal representation in criminal cases.

Writs of habeas corpus are the court challenges meant to ensure no one unfairly convicted is executed.

Habeas attorneys are supposed to find any misconduct or mistakes made by the defendant's trial lawyers, investigators, prosecutors, judges and jurors in the case.

The new rules follow an Austin American-Statesman review of the appeals system. It found that the court tolerated lawyers who submitted poorly prepared appeals.

The new rules take effect Friday.