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Case Name State v. Smith PD-AZ-0001
Docket / Court CR-5177 ( State Court )
State/Territory Arizona
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Case Summary
In this case, filed in 1982, a criminal defendant was appealing his conviction of assault, rape, and burglary. In the criminal defendant's appeal as-of-right, his conviction was upheld. In the discretionary appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, the defendant asked for his conviction to be vacated ... read more >
In this case, filed in 1982, a criminal defendant was appealing his conviction of assault, rape, and burglary. In the criminal defendant's appeal as-of-right, his conviction was upheld. In the discretionary appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, the defendant asked for his conviction to be vacated and for the Mohave public defender system to be declared unconstitutional. He claimed that the negotiation and awarding of public defense contracts resulted in overburdened attorneys that were not able to provide effective assistance of counsel in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the exclusion of an alibi witness from trial was the result of his attorney being able to spend less than ten hours on his case.

On December 17, 1980, a woman was sexually assaulted by a bearded man who had broken into her home in Kingman, Arizona. She identified her attacker in a photo-line up. The man she identified was arrested in Reno, Nevada, in September of 1981. The defendant claimed that he was not in Kingman, Arizona, when the crime had occurred, and instead, that he was living with his sister and his sister's boyfriend in Parker, Arizona, 100 miles away. Further, the man claimed that he had shaven off his beard in December of 1980. What's more, the defendant's brother had a beard during this time, and was the victim's neighbor.

His sister and his sister's boyfriend were both willing to testify to these facts. However, only the sister was called at trial, because defendant's lawyer had failed to include the sister's boyfriend on the witness list. When the defendant's lawyer tried to call the witness, the court excluded him from testifying. The defendant was convicted. He appealed, claiming that (1) it was error for the court to preclude his witness; and (2) that the error was the result of Mohave County's indigent defense system, which overburdened his lawyer.

On April 3rd, in a published opinion (681 P.2d 1374), the Arizona Supreme Court (Judge James Duke Cameron) found that the Mohave County public defense system was in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment. The Court described the system as one in which private attorneys, who maintain a civil practice (and in the defendant's case, a city prosecuting contract), submit bids on a yearly basis to the county Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors then awarded the contract to the lowest bidders, without consideration for parity of compensation to private criminal defense work, the skill or caseload of the bidders, or the geographical challenges each would have to face (Mohave County is the fifth largest county in the United States).

The Court detailed how the caseloads had greatly exceeded guidelines set by the American Bar Association and the contract negotiation guidelines set by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. The Supreme Court vacated the defendant's conviction and proclaimed that counsel had a duty (that would be protected by Arizona law) to not accept more cases than in which the lawyer could provide effective assistance of counsel.

The defendant was reconvicted at his second trial.

We have no further information on this case.

Blase Kearney - 07/16/2012

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Crowding / caseload
Quality of representation
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Mohave County
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff was convicted of criminal offenses claimed that Mohave County's bid system for securing public defense counsel precludes adequate and effective counsel for indigent criminal defendants.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought None on record
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Criminal Conviction
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1985
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Written: May. 07, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Links Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Written: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Arizona Supreme Court Opinion (681 P.2d 1374)
PD-AZ-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/03/1984
Source: Google Scholar
Court of Appeals Opinion (705 P.2d 1376)
PD-AZ-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/20/1985
Source: Google Scholar
Judges None on record
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Corbin, Robert K. (Arizona)
PD-AZ-0001-0001 | PD-AZ-0001-0002
Ellexson, Georgia B. (Arizona)
PD-AZ-0001-0001 | PD-AZ-0001-0002
Schafer, William J III (Arizona)
PD-AZ-0001-0001 | PD-AZ-0001-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Porter, William C. (Arizona)
PD-AZ-0001-0001 | PD-AZ-0001-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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