E. Lea Johnston


In 2008, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment permits a trial court to impose a higher competence standard for self-representation than to stand trial. The Court declined to delineate a permissible representational competence standard but indicated that findings of incompetence based on a lack of decisionmaking ability would withstand constitutional scrutiny. To date, no court or commentator has suggested a comprehensive competence standard to address the particular decisional context of self-representation at trial. Conceptualizing self-representation as an exercise in problem solving, this Article draws upon social problem-solving theory to identify abilities necessary for autonomous decisionmaking. The Article develops and applies a normative theory of representational competence to evaluate particular problem-solving abilities in light of competing norms of self-representation. It concludes by proposing a representational competence standard. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.



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