Reason For The Court To Appoint A New Lawyer
Any person charged with a crime has an absolute right to an attorney to represent them in all criminal proceedings. This right is protected under the 6th Amendment of the Constitution.* If that person cannot afford an attorney, an attorney is represented for them free of charge. What most people don't know or realize is that a defendant does not have a right to choose who their appointed attorney will be or who will be assigned to them.**
Public Defenders are attorneys that are employed by the government or the Court to represent defendants who are charged with a crime. Often times a person who has an appointed attorney or a public defender is not pleased or satisfied with the services or comfortable with the level of representation.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. A public defender does not communicate with them about their case. The appointed attorney does not return phone calls. The lawyer could be newly licensed and less experienced. Sometimes a defendant won't see their attorney until they get to Court. These are some of the most common complaints that people make when they are not satisfied with their lawyer.
Right To Competent Counsel
In Arizona a person who does not want the public defender assigned to them can ask the Court for a new public defender or can go out an hire their own private attorney.
Not only does a person charged with a crime have a right to an attorney but they have the right to competent counsel and “adequate representation” under the 6th Amendment Right to Counsel.*** A Court must appoint a new public defender If there is a complete breakdown in communication or a serious conflict between the public defender and the client.****
Must Give Valid Legal Reasons To Make Request For A New Public Defender
If a defendant or client makes the request for a new attorney, they will have to give the reasons why they want a new attorney. Usually the defendant will make the request in open court or will file a motion or send a letter to the judge explaining why they want a new public defender.
Factors The Courts Must Consider Before Appointing A New Public Defender:
- Whether a serious conflict exists between counsel and the defendant.
- Whether new counsel will face the same conflict.
- When the Request is made before Trial.
- Inconvenience to any Witnesses Scheduled to Come to Trial.
- How Often the Defendant Requests New Counsel.
- Quality of the Public Defender.
If the Court does not appoint a new public defender or appointed Counsel that Defendant has an absolute right to hire any private attorney they choose. Be careful not to wait to the last minute to request a new attorney or hire your own. An assigned lawyer cannot withdraw and a new attorney cannot substitute as counsel unless they are ready to proceed at trial. The new attorney is required to avow or swear to the Court that they will be up to speed on the proceedings to not delay any trial in the Case when they file a Notice to Substitute as Counsel.*****
*Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) – U.S. Supreme Court. The 6th Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to representation by counsel and indigent defendants charged with felony offenses in state courts.
**State v. Moody, 192 Ariz. 505 (1998) – Arizona Supreme Court.
***State v. LaGrand, 152 Ariz. 483 (1987) – Arizona Supreme Court
****State v. Torres, 208 Ariz. 340 (2004) – Arizona Supreme Court.
*****Rule 6.3 of the Arizona a Rules of Criminal Procedure.