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Name: People v. Avila
Case #: B216207
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 01/06/2011

The trial court does not abuse its discretion, or infringe on a defendant’s right to counsel of choice, when it appoints separate counsel to represent defendant at a competency hearing following defendant’s death threats against the prosecutor and the public defender. Appellant, charged with computer fraud and identity theft, elected to represent himself. After appellant continued to violate jail rules regarding telephone calls, the prosecutor asked for a hearing to determine if appellant was competent to defend himself. Following the hearing, the court terminated appellant’s right of self-representation and appointed the public defender to represent him. Appellant then made threats against the prosecutor and the public defender, resulting in the filing of two new cases alleging criminal threats. The appellate court rejected appellant’s claim that the court abused its discretion in terminating representation by the public defender. A defendant does not have the right to a specific court-appointed attorney or to an attorney who has an actual or potential conflict of interest. Here, the trial court observed that appellant’s death threats against the public defender created a potential conflict of interest, the public defender being both the named victim and a necessary witness at trial on the criminal threats. The trial court also was not required to consider any attempted waiver of the conflict by appellant. Appointment of new counsel was made to protect appellant’s right to competent and conflict-free counsel. As such, there was no violation of appellant’s right to counsel.