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Name: People v. Sutton
Case #: S166402
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/05/2010

Unavailability of a defendant’s counsel, not attributable to the state action, may constitute good cause for continuance of trial beyond the sixty day specified in Penal Code section 1382 and the state’s interest in properly joined trials may constitute good cause for continuance of a codefendant’s trial beyond the presumptive statutory period of section 1382. Under Penal Code section 1382, a defendant must be brought to trial within sixty days of arraignment on the felony charges unless “good cause” is shown for a later setting or the defendant consents to trial beyond the 60 days. In this case, the Supreme Court clarified its prior holding in People v. Johnson (1982) 26 Cal.3d 557, that the public defender’s conflicting obligations to other clients does not constitute good cause for continuance of trial date beyond the statutory limit, when the conflict is the result of state action such as failing to provide for sufficient attorneys for the caseloads. Here, the case of appellant and his codefendant were properly joined for narcotics offenses and trial date was set, with neither defendant waiving time. Trial was initially set to commence on day 53. Although the parties indicated that they were ready, codefendant Jackson’s attorney advised that he was involved in another trial which he anticipated would be concluded before the start date of the instant case. The trial was not concluded as anticipated and over the next few days, trial readiness hearings for the instant case were held. On the 60th day, the court continued the trial day on a day to day basis, until the 66th day when the attorney was available and trial commenced. The motion for dismissal for failure to commence the trial within 60 days was denied, the court finding “good cause” for the continuance. On review, the Supreme Court observed that the following factors are to be considered in determining good cause for a continuance under section 1382 – nature and strength of justification for delay; duration of delay; prejudice to either defendant or prosecution for delay. Where the delay is attributable to the neglect or fault of the state (i.e., chronically understaffed Office of the Public Defender), good cause for continuance does not exist and the court must dismiss. Here, counsel was not available because his other trial which was anticipated to take two days and be completed in time for appellant’s trial to commence, unexpectedly lasted eight days. As such, it was not a result of state negligence and good cause for the six day continuance existed. With the finding of good cause as to defendant Jackson, the state’s interest in joint trials provided good cause for continuance of codefendant’s trial for the six days.