Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hold On To That Statute Book

There is an interesting decision by the Montana Supreme Court in litigation brought by the state public defender to compel a judge to appoint the public defender's office as counsel in a criminal case. The defendant had initially twice declined to seek appointed counsel. Thereafter, a document "whimsical in nature" and signed Butter True (apparently the defendant's nickname) was submitted to the court asking for appointed counsel. The court declined to appoint counsel without evidence of indigency from the defendant, leading to an acrimonious exchange between a public defender and the judge (see below). The defendant was homeless and unavailable to provide the information. The public defender also had declined to provide the information, citing confidentiality concerns.

The court here declined to order the trial court to appoint the public defender and chided the behavior before the trial court: "In the future, we expect [the public defender's office] to be more resourceful in promptly resolving conflicts concerning representation and working with appointing courts in a respectful manner. Under no circumstances is it necessary or appropriate to toss a statute book over the bench toward a judge."

There seems to be a problem with the link to the case. It is Office of the State Public Defender v. Whitefish City Court, decided yesterday. (Mike Frisch)

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