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Name: United States v. Mendez-Sanchez
Case #: 08-30044
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/23/2009
Summary

Appellant’s request to represent himself was not unequivocal, and therefore the court did not err by continuing the proceedings with appointed counsel. Prior to his trial, appellant asked for a different lawyer for the third time, prior Marsden motions having been granted. He said that maybe representing himself would be better than being represented by the appointed lawyers. The court inquired as to the problems, and also made a full Faretta inquiry. Mendez-Sanchez was asked if he wanted to represent himself, and he indicated that he wanted a better lawyer. The court found that Mendez-Sanchez had not unequivocally invoked his Faretta rights, and his lawyers continued to represent him. On appeal, Mendez-Sanchez argued that the judge abused her discretion when she denied his motion to substitute counsel, that she should have offered him a standby counsel, and that she erred by failing to order a competency evaluation. The appellate court rejected the arguments and affirmed. The motion to substitute counsel was properly denied because whatever conflict Mendez-Sanchez had with counsel was not extensive or irreconcilable. Further, Mendez-Sanchez’s statements concerning representing himself did not unequivocally invoke the right of self-representation permitted by Faretta. Further, there is no right to standby counsel, so there was no right to have the court advise concerning the possibility of standby counsel. Finally, on this record there was no showing that Mendez-Sanchez was not competent to stand trial or assist in his defense.