Firing Retained Lawyer In Favor of Court-Appointed Lawyer by a ''Poor'' Defendant
In People v. Ortiz, 51 Cal. 3d 975, 984-85, 800 P.2d 547, 553, 275 Cal. Rptr. 191, 197 (1990), the court began with the basic principle that, while an indigent defendant must make a showing of inadequate representation or an irreconcilable conflict before substituting one appointed counsel for another, such a showing is not required when a nonindigent defendant seeks to discharge his or her retained counsel. Ortiz, 51 Cal. 3d at 984, 800 P.2d at 553, 275 Cal. Rptr. at 197.
Discussing the defendant's desire to discharge privately retained counsel in favor of court-appointed counsel, the court held that no special showing other than indigency was required, stating that "it may be even more important for an indigent defendant to be able to discharge retained counsel: if his motion is denied, he must choose between proceeding with no legal assistance or continuing with a retained attorney reluctantly serving on a pro bono basis." Ortiz, 51 Cal. 3d at 984-85, 800 P.2d at 553, 275 Cal. Rptr. at 197.
The court further stated:
"In addition, the policy concerns underlying the rule that a defendant generally is not entitled to more than one appointed attorney citation are irrelevant when an indigent criminal defendant, like defendant here, makes a timely motion to discharge his retained attorney and obtain a public defender or other appointed counsel in the court's discretion.
First, it is ordinarily appropriate to require the defendant who is seeking to substitute one appointed counsel for another to show cause, because he is requesting duplicative representation and repetitive investigation at taxpayer expense.
This is not the case here: defendant is requesting appointed counsel for the first time in connection with his retrial.
Accordingly, he should be treated no differently from a defendant who qualifies for representation by, and seeks appointment of, the public defender at the outset of the proceedings against him.
No additional public expense or drain on the state's limited resources is at issue, nor, as long as the motion is timely, is there a risk of any undesirable opportunity to 'delay trials and otherwise embarrass effective prosecution' of crime.
Second, unlike a defendant who will continue to be represented by an attorney at public expense if his motion is denied, the defendant in this case, on denial of his motion, will be represented by coerced, unpaid counsel, and exposed to all the attendant risks.
Equally irrelevant in this context are the concerns that underlie the rule denying indigent defendants the right to choose which attorney will be appointed to represent them.
While defendant will require appointment of an attorney if he is permitted to discharge his counsel the issue raised by the trial court is merely whether he should be permitted to discharge his counsel without proving their incompetence or an irreconcilable conflict; there is no suggestion that defendant is asking the court to appoint any particular attorney to replace his counsel." Ortiz, 51 Cal. 3d at 986-87, 800 P.2d at 554-55, 275 Cal. Rptr. at 198-99.
Thus, the court ultimately stated:
"Although nothing we do here affects the rule that indigent defendants do not have the right to choose a particular attorney to be appointed at public expense, there is no interest compelling us to treat an indigent defendant any differently from a nonindigent defendant when he moves to discharge his retained counsel.
In light of the importance of the right to counsel of choice and the sensitive nature of the relationship between a criminal defendant and his lawyer, we must not allow a defendant's indigence to prevent him from discharging in a timely manner the retained counsel he no longer wishes to represent him." Ortiz, 51 Cal. 3d at 987, 800 P.2d at 555, 275 Cal. Rptr. at 199.