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Name: People v. Hernandez
Case #: B183053
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 05/05/2006

Defendant’s convictions must be reversed because the trial court’s denial of his request to discharge his retained counsel prior to trial resulted in a denial of his state and constitutional rights to counsel and due process of law. During pretrial plea negotiations, retained counsel advised the court that the defendant wanted to ask the court to appoint the public defender or private appointed counsel in the case. The court responded it would not appoint private counsel unless the public defender was unable to represent the defendant. Three days later, defense counsel informed the court there was a request from the defendant to either have a public defender reappointed or have a “conflict attorney.” In response, the court sent the prosecutor out of the courtroom and allowed the defendant to air his concerns, but ultimately denied the motion to discharge counsel. On appeal, the court held that where counsel has been retained, a Marsden hearing is inappropriate. While the trial court could have denied the request to relieve counsel because the request was untimely, the court did not address the issue of timeliness, and thus reversal was automatic because the defendant had been deprived of his right to defend himself with counsel of his choice.