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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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