United States v. Beltran Valdez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 11-21-2011
  • Case #: 11-50117
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Sessions III for the Court; Judges Leavy and Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

An order denying a request for replacement counsel is barred by the collateral order doctrine and therefore not immediately appealable.

Beltran Valdez faced criminal charges as a deported alien when found in the United States. At a motions in limine hearing the day before his trial, Valdez requested replacement counsel. The district court denied the request, but allowed Valdez to proceed pro se and rescheduled the trial date. Valdez filed a notice of appeal. The Ninth Circuit requested the parties address whether the collateral order doctrine allowed appellate review of an order denying a request for replacement counsel. The parties and the Ninth Circuit agreed that the first two elements of the collateral order doctrine – that the order “conclusively determine the disputed question” and “resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action” – were satisfied. However, the third element of the doctrine requires that an order be “effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.” The Court reasoned that the order could be reviewed post-conviction to determine whether the defendant was deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit joined the Second, Third, Fourth, and Eighth Circuits in holding that an immediate appeal of an order denying the request of replacement counsel is barred by the collateral order doctrine. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. APPEAL DISMISSED.

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