ILNews

7th Circuit expands inquiry to implicit motion for new attorney

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals expanded caselaw today when ruling on a defendant’s request for new counsel.

The Circuit judges – which included retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sitting by designation – found the reasoning United States v. Zillges, 978 F.2d 369, 371 (7th Cir. 1992), applies whether a complaint is phrased in terms of an express motion for a new attorney or whether a defendant only makes an implicit motion.

Zillges holds that the court has a duty to inquire into the basis for the client’s objection to counsel and should withhold a ruling until reasons are made known. When an accused raises for the first time a complaint about his attorney, the court must rule on the matter.

During the second day of his trial for illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and various drug-distribution offenses, Adam Williams spoke to the judge outside of the presence of the jury about how he hadn’t see one of the video recordings played until it was shown by the prosecution, even though he requested to review all video prior to trial. He said he felt his attorney failed him.  U.S. District Judge James Moody told him it was “too late,” that the case would go forward, and that he didn’t really care what Williams thought.

Even the government admitted the court should have inquired further into William’s concerns instead of abruptly silencing him.

Because it was the first time the 7th Circuit addressed when a District Court didn’t inquire into a defendant’s concerns about his attorney, the judges established that the District Court’s abuse of discretion will only result in a new trial if Williams can show prejudice. Williams was unable to satisfy his burden under either prong of the test outlined in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), ruled the court in United States of America v. Adam Williams, No. 09-3174.

The appellate court also delved into the recent rulings of District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008), and United States v. Skoien, 587 F.3d 803 (7th Cir. 2009). Williams argued that the felon-in-possession statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(1), is unconstitutional as applied to him. The Circuit judges examined his claim using the intermediate scrutiny framework without determining that it would be the precise test applicable to all challenges to gun restrictions.

The government satisfied its burden that its objective to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders is an important one and it is advanced by means substantially related to that objection.

“And although we recognize that § 922(g)(1) may be subject to an overbreadth challenge at some point because of its disqualification of all felons, including those who are non-violent, that is not the case for Williams,” who as a violent offender isn’t the ideal candidate to challenge the constitutionality of Section 922(g)(1), wrote Judge Michael Kanne. Because he was convicted of a violent felony, his claim that the law unconstitutionally infringes on his right to possess a firearm is without merit.

 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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