Phillips Black’s practice emphases are three-fold: providing the highest quality legal representation in state post-conviction proceedings; litigating breakdowns of the capital post-conviction process in state and federal courts; and leading strategic litigation to safeguard the integrity of the criminal justice system in the imposition of its severest penalties.

Phillips Black aims to ensure that state post-conviction review is conducted pursuant to the highest standard of care, a particularly important aim in light of the substantial constraints on federal habeas corpus review and the frequently severe resource constraints imposed on counsel under court appointment. Our practitioners are also active as counsel of record in federal habeas corpus proceedings in courts across the nation.

Our practitioners are engaged in impact litigation concerning the constitutional failings of sentencing statutes and post-conviction review schemes. 


Phillips Black closely observes the evolving law and standards of care concerning capital representation at its different procedural stages. Further, Phillips Black monitors the circumstances and level of representation provided in capital jurisdictions throughout the country, routinely consulting on cases at key junctures in state and federal proceedings.

Constitutional and statutory rights to counsel for those facing or under a sentence of death are mediated by various fields, including the law of agency, the law governing lawyers, and prevailing canons of legal ethics. From case to case, this overlapping matrix largely determines the conditions for adequate representation.

Statutes of limitations and other largely procedural facets of our “Byzantine death penalty jurisprudence”,
yield a field of practice rife with landmines for practitioners and their clients. This topography has steadily become more perilous in the modern death penalty era. Conflicts of interest occur at an evermore alarming rate under the radical changes to the “Great Writ” of federal habeas corpus wrought by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which President Clinton signed into law upon the first anniversary of the country’s most horrific act of domestic terrorism, the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Phillips Black devotes considerable attention to the status of individuals facing an execution – whether imminently, pursuant to a warrant, or eventually, after further process in state and/or federal courts. This is done to assist in safeguarding the baseline in representation contemplated under the rule of law. Practitioners routinely invite Phillips Black to advise on cases facing the most challenging procedural postures and circumstances.