Requesting a Continuance to Make Arrangements for Attorney's Fee Payments

In People v. Courts (1985) 37 Cal.3d 784, several weeks before trial was to begin, defendant, who was out on bail, approached a private lawyer about substituting in for defendant's public defender. (Courts, supra, 37 Cal.3d. at p. 787.) The two met a few times to discuss the case and the payment of the attorney's fee, and defendant tried to get money for the fee. (Ibid.) At a trial setting conference eight days before trial was to begin, the defendant requested a continuance so he could make final arrangements for the fee. (Id. at p. 788.) The trial court denied the request, finding it to be untimely. (Ibid.) The same day, the retained attorney stated his willingness to represent defendant if a continuance was granted. (Ibid.) Five days before trial was to begin, the defendant retained the attorney. (Ibid.) The trial court refused to place a motion on calendar for substitution of attorney and a continuance. (Ibid.) On the day set for trial, the defendant's public defender requested a continuance. (Ibid.) Retained counsel appeared and stated his willingness to represent defendant, but he said that a continuance to prepare was necessary. (Ibid.) The trial court denied the motion, finding that the hiring of retained counsel was not significant because it was conditioned on a continuance being granted. (Ibid.) Defendant filed a declaration summarizing the steps he had taken to retain counsel and explaining why he wanted experience retained counsel over the inexperienced public defender. (Id. at pp. 788-789.) The Supreme Court said: "In deciding whether the denial of a continuance was so arbitrary as to violate due process, the reviewing court looks to the circumstances of each case, '"particularly the reasons presented to the trial judge at the time the request was denied.'" The record establishes that the defendant engaged in a good faith, diligent effort to obtain the substitution of counsel before the scheduled trial date. . . . . . . The court was not confronted with the 'uncertainties and contingencies' of an accused who simply wanted a continuance to obtain private counsel. Therefore, it cannot be said that the defendant was 'unjustifiably dilatory' in attempting to obtain the services of counsel of his own choosing. . . . The . . . motion represented a timely assertion of the defendant's intentions. It was made more than a week before trial--at a time when it appeared that a retainer arrangement was imminent. . . . The trial court's reasoning that it was 'last minute' and 'too late' to substitute counsel was not a correct reading of the law." (Courts, at pp. 791-792.) "In this regard, . . . the continuance request should be contrasted with the eve-of-trial, day-of-trial, and second-day-of-trial requests . . . .. In those cases, the Courts of Appeal found the lateness of the continuance request to be a significant factor which justified a denial where there were no compelling circumstances to the contrary. " (Id. at p. 792, fn. 4.) "All of the prosecution's witnesses with one exception were residents of the area or employees of Shasta County--and could all have been resubpoened." (Id. at p. 795.)