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Name: People v. Jones
Case #: S103689
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/24/2004

In appellant’s murder case, the trial court removed his appointed attorney because of a conflict of interest: the attorney’s previous representation of a man whom the defense suspected of committing the murder. The removal occurred over appellant’s objection and offer to waive the conflict. On appeal, appellant contended that the removal violated his right to counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal Constitution. The California Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. Trial courts must be allowed substantial latitude to refuse waivers of conflict. Here, the clear potential for conflict existed: The trial attorney found the possibility of conflict “troublesome” and feared that his representation of appellant would be affected by his fear of being sued by the former client. Nor did the removal of appellant’s attorney violate the state Constitution. When a trial court removes an attorney because of a potential conflict of interest, the court is seeking to protect the defendant’s right to competent counsel. In such circumstances there is no violation of the state Constitution, not withstanding an appellant’s willingness to waive the conflict.