7th Circuit: No attorney conflict of interest

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of a drug offender's petition for habeas corpus, ruling his attorney didn't render ineffective assistance of counsel when he also represented other co-defendants on the same drug charges.
In Argelio Gonzales v. Brett Mize, No. 08-1875, Argelio Gonzales appealed the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana's denial of his petition for habeas corpus, in which he claimed attorney Jay Hirschauer was ineffective because of conflicts of interest. Hirschauer represented Argelio at trial and on appeal, and also represented on the same drug charges co-defendants Laura Lapcheska, Argelio's girlfriend; Jorge Perez; Arnaldo Garcia; and Larry Campbell.
Gonzales argued before the Indiana Court of Appeals that a conflict of interest arose when Hirschauer negotiated a plea agreement for Lapcheska that called for her to testify against Gonzales; however, the plea agreement never called for that in writing and she never gave a clean-up statement as mentioned in the agreement. The appellate court affirmed the Circuit Court's denial of his post-conviction petition. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer.

On appeal to the 7th Circuit, Gonzales claimed the District Court erred when it rejected his claim of a Sixth Amendment violation because he was denied effective assistance of counsel when Hirschauer represented other co-defendants. The 7th Circuit granted transfer only on the question of whether he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

The federal appellate court determined Gonzales procedurally defaulted on his claims of conflict of interest relating to Hirschauer's representation of him and Campbell because he failed to make this argument in his petition to transfer to the Supreme Court.

In regards to the conflict of interest from Hirschauer's representation of Lapcheska, Gonzales' arguments also failed. Although he argued there was a conflict of interest because Lapcheska testified that she rejected her first plea agreement because she didn't want to testify against Gonzales, it was never mentioned in the written agreement that Lapcheska would have to testify against him. Gonzales failed to present clear and convincing evidence the first plea agreement Lapcheska rejected would have required her to testify.

Gonzales also argued that once Lapcheska was required to give a clean-up statement, Hirschauer was conflicted because she would have had to divulge information that could implicate Gonzales because her criminal activity could involve Gonzales. However, in her clean-up statement, Lapcheska would only have to divulge her own criminal activity prior to the date she was charged for the same drug crimes as Gonzales and there's no indication Hirschauer knew she could provide information about joint criminal activity involving her and Gonzales, the court ruled.

Gonzales failed to show that the alleged actual conflict of interest adversely affected the adequacy of his attorney's representation of him.

The Gonzales opinion was written by Judge Frederick J. Kapala of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, who was sitting by designation on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Look for a story about sitting in designation in the May 13-26, 2009, issue of Indiana Lawyer.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.