Wednesday, May 03, 2017

US v. Velazquez, No. 14-10311 (5-1-17)(Friedland w/Gilman; concurrence by Kozinski).  This is a request for new counsel case.  The defendant was indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking, and gun counts. She was facing a very long sentence (over 40 years).  Represented by first one, and then another CJA counsel, she tried to get a third lawyer, arguing that counsel never adequately met with her, explained the plea, and had missed court deadlines.  The court denied her timely motions for new counsel without conducting an adequate inquiry.  She did enter a plea, retained counsel, and was sentenced to 121 months.  Despite a waiver, she appealed.

The 9th vacated and remanded.  The 9th found the court had abused its discretion in denying a motion to substitute counsel.  The 9th held that waiver did not bar the appeal as it went to IAC, and her attempts to get a new lawyer. In terms of the merits of her motion for new counsel, the 9th considers (1) whether the court adequately inquired into the request; (2) the extent of the conflict between counsel and defendant; and (3) the timeliness of the request.  In this case, with timely requests, supported by motions and evidence, the court failed to hold a hearing and explore the breakdown in communications.  There was also pressure from the magistrate judge on the defendant to accept the plea deal. The case provides a good overview of the factors for new counsel, and what a court has to do.

Concurring Kozinski notes that the court were acting in what they believed was the best interest of the defendant.  Kozinski asks the government to act compassionately.
The decision is here:


Post a Comment

<< Home