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Name: People v. Vigil
Case #: H032972
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/12/2008

Article I, section 15, of the California Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to counsel of an attorney admitted to the State Bar, and the right is violated when the attorney representing a defendant resigns from the Bar with charges pending during a defendant’s trial. And such error is reversible per se. Appellant was convicted at a court trial of felony spousal abuse. Between the third and fourth days of trial, appellant’s attorney submitted a letter of resignation to the State Bar, with charges pending. Under the California State Constitution and the holding of In re Johnson (1992) 1 Cal.4th 689, a defendant has a constitutional right to counsel who is a member of the State Bar. Because appellant’s attorney’s resignation became effective the date he tendered his letter of resignation, he was not eligible to practice law and appellant, thus, was deprived of his right to counsel. Since no showing of prejudice is necessary for this constitutional error, the judgment was reversed.