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Name: Bracher v. Superior Court (El Dorado County)
Case #: C069958
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/16/2012

In a misdemeanor case, a defendant may appear for court proceedings through counsel and a local rule of court with a blanket policy requiring appearance of a defendant in a misdemeanor case is invalid. Penal Code section 977, subdivision (a) provides that a misdemeanor defendant may ordinarily appear through counsel. In an appropriate case, the court can order a defendant be present for arraignment, at the time of plea and sentencing, but must first make an individual assessment of the case. El Dorado County rule of court 5.11.02 required all defendants to be personally present for the calendared Readiness and Settlement Conference. In this case, real party in interest argued that the appearance was necessary to hold a meaningful settlement conference. The appellate court found this rule to be in violation of the statute, as well as relevant case law, and granted a peremptory writ of mandate directing the county not to apply the rule in misdemeanor cases and to excuse misdemeanor defendants from personally appearing at the readiness and settlement conference where counsel is empowered to represent their interests, absent a finding of good cause in a particular case or a specific statutory exception.