Defender v. State, Nos. SC09–1181

CourtFlorida Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtQUINCE
Citation115 So.3d 261
Docket NumberNos. SC09–1181,SC10–1349.
Decision Date23 May 2013
PartiesPUBLIC DEFENDER, ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF FLORIDA, et al., Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, et al., Respondent. Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, et al., Petitioner, v. State of Florida, et al., Respondent.

115 So.3d 261

PUBLIC DEFENDER, ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF FLORIDA, et al., Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Florida, et al., Respondent.

Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, et al., Petitioner,
v.
State of Florida, et al., Respondent.

Nos. SC09–1181, SC10–1349.

Supreme Court of Florida.

May 23, 2013.


[115 So.3d 264]


Parker D. Thomson, Julie E. Nevins, and Laura Besvinick, of Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Miami, FL, for Petitioners.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Louis F. Hubener, Chief Deputy Solicitor General, and Ronald Lathan, Deputy Solicitor General, Tallahassee, FL; Richard L. Polin, Bureau Chief, Criminal Appeals, Miami, FL, for Respondent.


H. Scott Fingerhut, Chair–Elect, Miami, FL, and George E. Tragos, Member, Executive Council, Clearwater, FL, for Amicus Curiae The Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Gene Zenobi, Regional Counsel, and Philip Louis Reizenstein, Assistant Regional Counsel, Miami, FL, for Amicus Curiae Criminal Conflict And Civil Regional Counsel, Third Region of Florida.

Michael Ufferman, Co–Chair, Amicus Committee, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Tallahassee, Florida, and Sonya Rudenstine, Co–Chair, Amicus Committee, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, for Amicus Curiae Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Center for Ethics and Public Service of the Miami School of Law, the Public Interest Law Section of the Florida Bar, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Constitution Project.

William T. Robinson III, President, and Steven L. Brannock and Celene H. Humphries, Chicago, IL, for Amicus Curiae The American Bar Association.

Elliot H. Scherker, and Julissa Rodriguez, of Greenberg Traurig, P.A., Miami, FL, and Karen M. Gottlieb, Coconut Grove, FL, for Amicus Curiae Harry Lee Anstead, Robert A. Butterworth, Henry M. Coxe, III, Talbot D'Alemberte, Phillip A. Hubbart, Bruce R. Jacob, Gerald Kogan, John A. Reed, Jr., Leander J. Shaw, Jr., Larry Gibbs Turner and Stephen N. Zack.

Nancy Daniels, President, Tallahassee, FL, for Amicus Curiae The Florida Public Defender Association, Inc.

Arthur Ivan Jacobs, General Counsel, Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Fernandina Beach, Florida, Penny Hershoff Brill, Assistant State Attorney, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Miami Florida, William N. Meggs, Florida State Director, National District Attorneys Association, Tallahassee, Florida, Scott Burns, Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association, Alexandria, Virginia, for Amicus Curiae The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

QUINCE, J.

This matter is before the Court for review of the decisions of the Third District Court of Appeal in State v. Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, 12 So.3d 798 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009), and State v. Bowens, 39 So.3d 479 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).1 We accepted review in Public Defender because the decision directly affects a class of constitutional officers, namely public defenders. In Bowens, the district court ruled upon the following question, which the court certified to be of great public importance:

Whether section 27.5303(1)(d), Florida Statutes (2007), which prohibits a trial court from granting a motion for withdrawal by a public defender based on

[115 So.3d 265]

“conflicts arising from underfunding, excessive caseload or the prospective inability to adequately represent a client,” is unconstitutional as a violation of an indigent client's right to effective assistance of counsel and access to the courts, and a violation of the separation of powers mandated by Article II, section 3 of the Florida Constitution as legislative interference with the judiciary's inherent authority to provide counsel and the Supreme Court's exclusive control over the ethical rules governing lawyer conflicts of interest?
Bowens, 39 So.3d at 482.
We have jurisdiction in both cases. Seeart. V, § 3(b)(3), (4), Fla. Const. For the reasons stated below, we quash the decision of the Third District in Public Defender and quash in part and affirm in part the decision in Bowens. We also remand to the trial court for a determination of whether the circumstances still warrant granting the Public Defender's motion to decline appointments in future third-degree felony cases under the standards approved in this decision.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit (the Public Defender) filed motions in twenty-one criminal cases seeking to be relieved of the obligations to represent indigent defendants in non-capital felony cases. The Public Defender certified a conflict of interest in each case, claiming that excessive caseloads caused by underfunding meant the office could not carry out its legal and ethical obligations to the defendants. The trial court consolidated all of the motions and denied the State Attorney's Office (the State) standing to oppose the Public Defender's motions. The trial court did allow the State to participate in the proceedings as amicus curiae. The trial court determined that the Public Defender's caseload was excessive by any reasonable standard and that this excessive caseload only allowed the Public Defender to provide minimally competent representation. The trial court issued an order permitting the Public Defender to decline appointments in future third-degree felony cases, although the Public Defender was still required to represent those defendants through arraignment. See Public Defender, 12 So.3d at 804.

The State appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal, which stayed the trial court's order and certified the order on appeal as having a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state and requiring immediate resolution by this Court. Seeart. V, § 3(b)(5), Fla. Const. This Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. See State v. Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, 996 So.2d 213 (Fla.2008) (table). The Third District then entered its decision in the instant case, in which it reversed the trial court's order. Public Defender, 12 So.3d at 805–06. The Third District made a number of legal conclusions in its decision. First, the district court concluded that the State did have standing to oppose the motion in the trial court, based on section 27.02(1), Florida Statutes (2007), 2 which gives the State standing to oppose all motions in cases in which it is a party. Id. at 801. Second, the Third District concluded that the Public Defender's withdrawal from a case based on conflict must be determined on a

[115 So.3d 266]

case-by-case basis, and not in the aggregate. Id. at 802–03. Third, the Third District dismissed the Public Defender's argument that the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar should be the governing standard to determine whether withdrawal is appropriate. The Third District determined that the rules did not apply to the Public Defender's Office as a whole, but rather to individual attorneys. Id. at 803. Fourth, the Third District concluded that excessive caseloads do not constitute a conflict of interest under section 27.5303, Florida Statutes (2007), because the Legislature had not included excessive caseload as part of the its definition of conflicts of interest. Contrary to the trial court's ruling, the Third District concluded that section 27.5303 was applicable in this case because there is no distinction between withdrawing from cases and declining new appointments under the clear meaning of the statute and the structure of the Public Defender's Office.3Id. at 803–05. Finally, in considering the issue of underfunding, the Third District noted that the Public Defender had failed to hire new attorneys since 2005, despite receiving funding from the Legislature for such positions. The Third District found insufficient evidence to conclude that a small budget decrease would require a dramatic decrease in the Public Defender's caseload. Id. at 805. This Court accepted review of the Third District's decision on the basis that it expressly affects a class of constitutional officers.

In Bowens, 39 So.3d at 480, assistant public defender Jay Kolsky filed a motion to withdraw from representing defendant Antoine Bowens. The motion alleged that the excessive caseload of the assigned public defender created a conflict of interest. The Public Defender also challenged the constitutionality of section 27.5303(1)(d), Florida Statutes (2007), 4 the statute that excludes excessive caseload as a ground for withdrawal. After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court granted the motion to withdraw, finding that the public defender had demonstrated adequate, individualized proof of prejudice to Bowens as a direct result of Kolsky's workload. However, the circuit court denied the constitutional challenge. On certiorari review, the Third District quashed the trial court's order granting the attorney's motion to withdraw. The Third District held that prejudice or harm to a client must be made on a case-by-case basis with individualized proof, which does not include excessive caseload. The Third District also upheld the constitutionality of the statute. However, because this Court had granted review in Public Defender, SC09–1181, the Third District certified the question of great public importance to this Court. Bowens, 39 So.3d at 482. This Court voted to grant review and granted the Public Defender's motion to consolidate the two cases for all purposes.

II. ANALYSIS

In order to address the various issues raised in this case, we first review the history and law regarding indigent criminal defense. Criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment to

[115 So.3d 267]

the United States Constitution, see Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799 (1963), and article I, section 16 of the Florida Constitution. In addition, “the right to effective assistance of counsel encompasses the right to...

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15 practice notes
  • People v. Superior Court of L. A. Cnty., B287946
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 12, 2018
    ...2012) 370 S.W.3d 592 ; People v. Roberts (Colo. Ct.App. 2013) 321 P.3d 581 ( Roberts ); see also Public Defender v. State (Fla. 2013) 115 So.3d 261, 270 [" ‘[W]hen understaffing creates a situation where indigent [defendants] are not afforded effective assistance of counsel, the public defe......
  • Church v. Missouri, No. 17–cv–04057–NKL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • July 24, 2017
    ...S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed.2d 657 (1984) ; Avery v. Alabama , 308 U.S. 444, 446, 60 S.Ct. 321, 84 L.Ed. 377 (1940) ; Pub. Defender v. State , 115 So.3d 261 (Fla. 2013) ; State v. Citizen , 898 So.2d 325 (La. 2005) ; State v. Peart , 621 So.2d 780 (La. 1993) ).In addition to the allegations of syst......
  • GROUPS AND RIGHTS IN INSTITUTIONAL REFORM LITIGATION.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...JUSTICE DENIED]. (152) E.g.. Kuren v. Luzerne Cnty., 146 A.3d 715, 723-25 (Pa. 2016); Pub. Del'., Eleventh Jud. Or. of Fla. v. State, 115 So. 3d 261, 278 (Fla. (153) David Rudovsky, Gideon and the Effective Assistance of Counsel: The Rhetoric and the Reality. 32 LAW & INEQUALITY 371, 37......
  • Abdool v. Bondi, No. SC13–1123.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 12, 2014
    ...was established by the Florida Legislature in 1963. See [141 So.3d 549]Pub. Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Fla. v. State, 115 So.3d 261, 267 (Fla.2013); see also ch. 63–409, § 1, Laws of Fla. (enacting section 27.50, Florida Statutes (1963), which created the Office of the Public De......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • People v. Superior Court of L. A. Cnty., B287946
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 12, 2018
    ...2012) 370 S.W.3d 592 ; People v. Roberts (Colo. Ct.App. 2013) 321 P.3d 581 ( Roberts ); see also Public Defender v. State (Fla. 2013) 115 So.3d 261, 270 [" ‘[W]hen understaffing creates a situation where indigent [defendants] are not afforded effective assistance of counsel, the public defe......
  • Church v. Missouri, No. 17–cv–04057–NKL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • July 24, 2017
    ...S.Ct. 2039, 80 L.Ed.2d 657 (1984) ; Avery v. Alabama , 308 U.S. 444, 446, 60 S.Ct. 321, 84 L.Ed. 377 (1940) ; Pub. Defender v. State , 115 So.3d 261 (Fla. 2013) ; State v. Citizen , 898 So.2d 325 (La. 2005) ; State v. Peart , 621 So.2d 780 (La. 1993) ).In addition to the allegations of syst......
  • Abdool v. Bondi, No. SC13–1123.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 12, 2014
    ...was established by the Florida Legislature in 1963. See [141 So.3d 549]Pub. Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Fla. v. State, 115 So.3d 261, 267 (Fla.2013); see also ch. 63–409, § 1, Laws of Fla. (enacting section 27.50, Florida Statutes (1963), which created the Office of the Public De......
  • Hurrell-Harring v. State
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • July 3, 2014
    ...ex rel. Green v. Washington, 917 F.Supp. 1238, 1250 [N.D.Ill.1996];Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Fla. v. State, 115 So.3d 261, 275 [Fla.2013] ). The same is true for various other forms of systemic reform litigation ( see e.g. Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • GROUPS AND RIGHTS IN INSTITUTIONAL REFORM LITIGATION.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...JUSTICE DENIED]. (152) E.g.. Kuren v. Luzerne Cnty., 146 A.3d 715, 723-25 (Pa. 2016); Pub. Del'., Eleventh Jud. Or. of Fla. v. State, 115 So. 3d 261, 278 (Fla. (153) David Rudovsky, Gideon and the Effective Assistance of Counsel: The Rhetoric and the Reality. 32 LAW & INEQUALITY 371, 37......

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