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Name: People v. Mendez
Case #: F052340
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/11/2008

Reversal was required where the court failed to hold a Marsden hearing following appellant’s motion for new trial based on competency of counsel. At the sentencingh hearing following Mendez’s conviction for battery on a fellow inmate, defense counsel informed the court that his client was making a new trial motion based on the competency of counsel. The court appointed new counsel to investigate the competency allegation. New counsel later reported his opinion that the motion was not appropriate and suggested they were matters better raised on appeal. The trial court terminated the new counsel’s appointment and reappointed the original counsel. On appeal, Mendez argued that the trial court’s failure to hold a hearing on the grievance in his new trial motion about the competence of counsel required a remand for a Marsden hearing. The appellate court agreed and reversed. Mendez’s motion was adequate to put the court on notice of his request for a Marsden hearing. The trial court failed to conduct an appropriate Marsden inquiry but instead appointed new counsel to make a determination, thereby abandoning its own obligation to make the ultimate determination. The trial court also failed to question trial counsel at all concerning the allegation. No part of the procedure satisfied the requirements of Marsden . Since it could not be concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the denial of the effective assistance of counsel did not contribute to the conviction, reversal was required.