Irreconcilable Conflict Between a Lawyer and His Client

In State v. Henry, 189 Ariz. 542, 944 P.2d 57 (1997), a defendant sought to substitute his appointed counsel due to an "irreconcilable conflict." Id. at 546, 944 P.2d at 61. The court denied the request, finding no such conflict. Id. It indicated that in light of the defendant's right to represent himself, the defendant could choose to keep his present attorney or he could choose to represent himself, but the court declined to appoint substitute counsel. Id. When the defendant refused to make either choice unless the court indicated whether it would grant him additional time to prepare for the scheduled hearing if he chose to represent himself, the court proceeded with the hearing as though the defendant had not waived his right to counsel. Id. On review, the supreme court affirmed the trial court in all respects. It noted that although the defendant had a right to counsel, he did not have a right to counsel of his own choosing, nor to a meaningful relationship with counsel. Id. at 546, 944 P.2d at 61. It further noted that the defendant had a proclivity to change counsel and had claimed "irreconcilable conflict" with a series of previous attorneys. Id. at 546-47, 944 P.2d at 61-62. In such circumstances, "the court may deny a motion for yet another lawyer where the orderly administration of justice so requires." Id. at 547, 944 P.2d at 62. The court noted that, in evaluating a request to withdraw, a court normally considers: Whether an irreconcilable conflict exists between counsel and the accused, and whether new counsel would be confronted with the same conflict; the timing of the motion; inconvenience to witnesses; the time period already elapsed since the inception of the proceeding and trial; the proclivity of the defendant to change counsel; and quality of counsel. Henry, 189 Ariz. at 546-47, 944 P.2d at 61-62. The court did not hold, however, that the trial court could allow existing counsel to withdraw and require the defendant to proceed unrepresented without providing the defendant with advance warning. It instead affirmed the trial court's determination that the defendant must either keep his current counsel, with whom he had no real irreconcilable conflict, or elect to represent himself. Henry, 189 Ariz. at 546-48, 944 P.2d at 61- 63. The court further held that if the defendant chose to represent himself, he had to make an unequivocal request to do so. Id. at 548, 944 P.2d at 63. It found no error when, after the defendant refused to make an election, the trial court proceeded as if the defendant had chosen to retain counsel. Id.