David Barnes (plaintiff) was convicted of robbery and assault in a New York state court. Attorney Michael Melinger was assigned to represent Barnes on his appeal. Barnes asked Melinger to raise a number of issues on appeal, but Melinger concentrated on three of the issues, and rejected two others requested by Barnes. Barnes submitted a pro se brief presenting the three issues plus the other two issues rejected by Melinger to the appellate court. The appellate court affirmed Barnes’ conviction. After a number of post-conviction relief remedies proved unsuccessful, Barnes filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court against Jones (defendant), superintendent of the Great Meadow Correctional Facility where Barnes was incarcerated. Barnes alleged that Melinger’s failure to assert all the non-frivolous arguments Barnes had requested was a denial of his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The district court dismissed Barnes’ petition. A divided panel of the court of appeals reversed and held that Melinger was required to assert all legal issues. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.