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What happens when you just can’t stand your lawyer?

A recent New Hampshire Supreme Court Case illustrated the following facts.  On the morning of trial the defendant told his lawyer that he was fired.  

Specifically, the defendant complained to the Judge that his lawyer failed to conduct a proper investigation and failed to subpoena important witnesses to testify.  The Judge told the defendant that he would not make the defendant be represented by his lawyer.  Rather, the defendant could represent himself.

Remember the phrase he who represents himself has a fool for a client?  Needless to say, the defendant represented himself, was convicted of three felony counts of Stalking and received a whopper of a sentence.

On appeal the defendant argued, in part, that the trial court made a mistake by requiring the defendant to choose between self-representation and representation by the lawyer he sought to dismiss.

The appellate court denied the defendant’s request for a new trial:

“When a defendant voices objections to counsel, the trial court should inquire into the reasons for the dissatisfaction.  In evaluating whether a trial court’s denial of a motion for substitution of counsel constituted an unsustainable exercise of discretion, we consider the following factors: the timeliness of the motion, the adequacy of the court’s inquiry into the defendant’s complaint, and whether the conflict between the defendant and his counsel was so great that it resulted in a total lack of communication preventing an adequate defense.”

The remedy sought, new counsel, essentially amounted for a request for a last minute continuance. Further, the trial court adequately inquired into the defendant’s reasons behind wanting to fire his lawyer.  Lastly, the appellate court did not find that the trial lawyer’s representation amounted to the ineffective assistance of counsel.  Rather, under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) the court noted “the high degree of deference with which we review counsel’s performance.”

The Lesson to be learned:

If my Doctor told me I was dying I would get a second opinion as quickly as possible and before the grim reaper was lurching back to swing his scythe.  If you have questions or concerns about your legal predicament, get a second opinion before it’s too late.  If your lawyer is acting squirreled or you have a pit in your stomach, just call.  We’ll give a second opinion free of charge.

Criminal Defense is all we do!

The Law Office of Shepherd & Osborne
351 Main Street
Nashua, NH 03060
Phone: 603-595-5525
Fax: 603-595-5533

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