Denying a Request for Appointment of Counsel in California

In determining whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying a request for appointment of counsel after a defendant has been granted self-representation status, a reviewing court examines the totality of the circumstances surrounding the trial court's ruling. (People v. Gallego (1990) 52 Cal.3d 115, 161; see also People v. Lawley (2002) 27 Cal.4th 102, 149.) Relevant factors include: "(1) defendant's prior history in the substitution of counsel and in the desire to change from self-representation to counsel-representation, (2) the reasons set forth for the request, (3) the length and stage of the trial proceedings, (4) disruption or delay which reasonably might be expected to ensue from the granting of such motion, and (5) the likelihood of defendant's effectiveness in defending against the charges if required to continue to act as his own attorney." (Elliott, at pp. 993-994; see also Gallego, at p. 164.) In People v. Elliott (1977) 70 Cal.App.3d 984, after determining that the above factors, derived from People v. Windham (1977) 19 Cal.3d 121, were relevant to a determination of discretion, it stated: "The Windham court emphasized that the exercise of discretion by the trial court, in ruling on the defendant's request for a change from counsel-representation to self-representation should be predicated on a consideration of these factors with the record showing that the trial court considered such factors in ruling on the defendant's request. One of the basic reasons for imposing upon the trial court the making of a record with respect to the factors undergirding his exercise of discretion was the necessity for the trial court to make an inquiry, sua sponte, into the specific factors underlying the request in order to ensure a meaningful record for appellate review in the event that such review was later required. . . . As in Windham, the trial judge must establish a record based upon the relevant factors involved and then exercise his discretion and rule on defendant's request for a change from self-representation to counsel-representation." (People v. Elliot, supra, 70 Cal.App.3d at pp. 993-994.)