Donnelly v. State

In Donnelly v. State, 516 P.2d 396 (Alaska 1973), the Alaska Supreme Court confronted a right-to-counsel issue arising from an aspect of post-conviction relief law. In Donnelly, the supreme court acknowledged that Criminal Rule 35(f) did not go far enough -- that this rule was unlawful to the extent that it conditioned a defendant's right to counsel on the trial court's preliminary determination that the defendant's petition raised issues of arguable merit. The supreme court explained that, because a petition for post-conviction relief can be dismissed on the pleadings, or on a motion for summary judgement, petitioners need the assistance of counsel when formulating and investigating their claims for relief: It may be necessary, in order to develop genuine issues, for the prisoner making an application for post-conviction relief to prepare supplemental pleadings and to participate in the discovery procedures permitted under the rule. It is therefore essential that the prisoner be represented by competent counsel in the event that he is unable to afford an attorney. Only the assistance of counsel will assure that meritorious claims will be fairly presented and full advantage taken of the procedures and investigation contemplated by the rule. ... Because post-conviction relief law requires the development of genuine issues of fact in order to merit an evidentiary hearing, the right to counsel ... must be extended to require representation at the time the initial application is filed. (Donnelly, 516 P.2d at 399.)