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Name: People v. Ramirez
Case #: S012944
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/07/2006

Ramirez was charged with the Night Stalker murders, and the public defender was appointed to represent him. He requested to substitute Arturo Hernandez and Daniel Hernandez, who he had retained. The trial court expressed concern that the attorneys did not meet the State Bar standards required of attorneys for representing capital defendants, and ordered the attorneys to disclose any facts which affected their ability to represent Ramirez. The court also offered Ramirez the opportunity to speak with independent counsel, which he declined. The court granted the substitution request and the retained attorneys represented Ramirez during his trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death. In his automatic appeal, he contended that the trial court violated its sua sponte duty to ensure he would be represented by qualified effective counsel when it granted his request for substitution. The California Supreme Court affirmed. A court can only abridge a defendant’s right to retain counsel of his choice if it will result in significant prejudice to the defendant. A defendant whose request is granted cannot complain on appeal it should have been denied unless the defendant claims ineffective assistance of counsel, which was not alleged here.