Continuance Request to Hire a Private Attorney In California

Can you ask for a continuance to hire a private lawyer ? In People v. Courts (1985) 37 Cal.3d 784, the defendant, represented by appointed counsel, at the trial setting conference requested a continuance for the purpose of retaining private counsel. The trial court denied the request, and the defendant challenged this denial on appeal. the Supreme Court set forth the principles applicable to review of the denial of a request for continuance for the purpose of hiring private counsel. The court recognized "the right to the effective assistance of counsel 'encompasses the right to retain counsel of one's own choosing.' " (People v. Courts, supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 789.) The court stated: "Both this court and the United States Supreme Court have emphasized that trial courts have the responsibility to protect a financially able individual's right to appear and defend with counsel of his own choosing. 'A necessary corollary of the right is that a defendant must be given a reasonable opportunity to employ and consult with counsel; otherwise, the right to be heard by counsel would be of little worth.' In addition, counsel, 'once retained, must be given a reasonable time in which to prepare the defense.' Failure to respect these rights constitutes a denial of due process." ( Id. at p. 790.) "In view of the importance of these rights and the severe consequences which flow from their violation, the trial courts are required to 'make all reasonable efforts to ensure that a defendant financially able to retain an attorney of his own choosing can be represented by that attorney.' To this end, 'the state should keep to a necessary minimum its interference with the individual's desire to defend himself in whatever manner he deems best, using any legitimate means within his resources . . . .' Any limitations on the right to counsel of one's choosing are carefully circumscribed. Thus, the right 'can constitutionally be forced to yield only when it will result in significant prejudice to the defendant himself or in a disruption of the orderly processes of justice unreasonable under the circumstances of the particular case.' The right to such counsel 'must be carefully weighed against other values of substantial importance, such as that seeking to ensure orderly and expeditious judicial administration, with a view toward an accommodation reasonable under the facts of the particular case.' " (People v. Courts, supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 790.)