Rodgers v. Marshall

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-17-2012
  • Case #: 10-55816
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Zouhary for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Fletcher.
  • Full Text Opinion

A criminal defendant’s request for representation to file a post-verdict new trial motion is a “critical stage” under the Sixth Amendment and thus allows for a right to counsel, and that denying such representation because a defendant waived his right to counsel previously is a violation of established federal law.

Otis Lee Rodgers was found guilty in June 2003 of assault with a firearm, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon, and making criminal threats. Rodgers was sentenced to sixteen years in prison, which he is currently serving. Rodgers filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal court with twenty-one claims for relief. The district court denied this petition but granted a limited certificate of appealability regarding his claim that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when the state trial court denied his timely request for representation in order to file a new trial motion. The Ninth Circuit must review the “last reasoned state court decision” and found this to be the August 2005 decision of the California appellate court which denied Rodgers Sixth Amendment claim. The Supreme Court has extended the right to representation beyond the trial to various “critical stages” in which “substantial rights of a criminal accused may be affected.” The Ninth Circuit found that every federal circuit that has addressed the issue has found that post-trial, pre-appeal motions for new trials are critical stages requiring the right to counsel. The court also determined that even though a criminal defendant previously waived counsel, this does not deny him the right to re-assert it at a separate, post-trial proceeding. For these reasons, the Ninth Circuit determined the California appellate court’s decision to be “contrary to…clearly established federal law.” The Ninth Circuit held that a criminal defendant’s request for representation to file a post-verdict new trial motion is a “critical stage” under the Sixth Amendment and thus allows for a right to counsel, and that denying such representation because a defendant waived his right to counsel previously is a violation of established federal law. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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