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Home / Opinion / 09-4055 & 10-1626 U.S. v. Gaya

09-4055 & 10-1626 U.S. v. Gaya

Criminal Procedure
Counsel of choice

It did not violate the defendant’s right to counsel of choice to deny a request for new counsel and a continuance after the jury had already been selected.

“The circumstances would not have justified granting the request even if a jury hadn’t been picked. Gaya’s lawyer, who was court-appointed, had filed his notice of appearance in the district court on December 6, 2007, and the trial began on May 6, 2008. He was Gaya’s second lawyer; the first had been appointed shortly after his arrest, which occurred exactly one year before the second lawyer filed his notice of appearance. (Gaya is now on his fourth lawyer.) Gaya had appeared twice in court before May 6—at a status hearing on April 10 and when the jury was selected on April 30. And he had had ample opportunity during the previous five months to express to the court his dissatisfaction with his lawyer and desire for a different one. He could have done that even if May 6 had been his first court appearance; had he told the lawyer at any time that he was dissatisfied with him and wanted his dissatisfaction conveyed to the court, the lawyer would have been duty-bound to comply. The reasons that Gaya gave the judge for his dissatisfaction with the lawyer (the lawyer ‘wasn’t basing anything on my case. He wasn’t defending me. He wasn’t telling about for trial, nothing. Basically all the questions he was asking me, who is the key witness and if I wanted to cooperate’) do not appear to have been of recent origin. Nothing had happened on the eve of trial to induce a dramatic change of mind about the lawyer’s suitability. ‘Trial judges necessarily require a great deal of latitude in scheduling trials. Not the least of their problems is that of assembling the witnesses, lawyers, and jurors at the same place at the same time, and this burden counsels against continuances except for compelling reasons. Consequently, broad discretion must be granted trial courts on matters of continuances; only an unreasoning and arbitrary “insistence upon expeditiousness in the face of a justifiable request for delay” violates the right to the assistance of counsel.’ Morris v. Slappy, 461 U.S. 1, 11-12 (1983), quoting Ungar v. Sarafite, 376 U.S. 575, 589 (1964).”


09-4055 & 10-1626 U.S. v. Gaya

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Andersen, J., Posner, J.

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