People v. Hall

Decision Date08 February 1979
Citation414 N.Y.S.2d 678,387 N.E.2d 610,46 N.Y.2d 873
Parties, 387 N.E.2d 610 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. John HALL, also known as Leroy Thomas, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals


Two issues are tendered for our review. On the eve of the scheduled trial, at a pretrial identification hearing, assigned counsel for appellant, Louis Alperin, Esq., discovered that he had previously represented an important identification witness to be called by the prosecution, one James Gonzalez, and had been intimately involved with his family and his personal history and background, including certain things which might prove embarrassing to the witness. After his becoming aware of the identity of defense counsel, Gonzalez backed away from identification of defendant. * Mr. Alperin promptly informed the court and the prosecution of his predicament. The prosecution thereupon moved the court to disqualify counsel and to assign a replacement. With evident reluctance to "abandon" his client, Mr. Alperin joined in the motion. After consideration and over the strenuous objections of appellant, who found Mr. Alperin to be "a very good lawyer", the court granted the motion, relieved Mr. Alperin and directed the assignment of new counsel. Appellant argues that it was error for the court to have excused his assigned counsel. No issue is now tendered, however, with respect to the propriety of rulings of the court after Mr. Alperin was relieved or of the performance of substituted counsel.

On reviewing the record we agree with the Appellate Division that it was not error for the court to have excused defense counsel in the circumstances disclosed, nor was appellant thereby deprived of any constitutional right. This is not an instance in which the court relied on a waiver of a potential conflict of interest by the defendant or allowed the defendant to continue with his counsel (e. g., People v. Gomberg, 38 N.Y.2d 307, 379 N.Y.S.2d 769, 342 N.E.2d 550; see Ann., 27 A.L.R.3d 1431). Precisely the opposite occurred; the court rejected appellant's desire to retain his assigned counsel. Cases involving a defendant's right to proceed Pro se do not fit, and cases in which counsel did continue are inapposite. It is the gravamen of appellant's argument that a defendant has the constitutional right, once an attorney has been retained or assigned, to determine whether such attorney may continue to represent him. This is too categorical a description of a defendant's right. We agree that a court should be hesitant to interfere in an established attorney-client relationship, even where, as here, the attorney joins in the application to be excused. Clearly the lawyer cannot terminate the relationship, ex parte. Nor, on the other hand, may the client preclude termination (cf. People v. Brabson, 9 N.Y.2d 173, 212 N.Y.S.2d 401, 173 N.E.2d 227, cert. den. 366 U.S. 930, 81 S.Ct. 1654, 6 L.Ed.2d 390 (assigned counsel)). We find no error, however, in the determination made by the court to disqualify Mr. Alperin in this instance in circumstances in which it appeared very likely that his continuance in the case...

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29 cases
  • Smith v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • November 28, 1986
    ... ... New York, supra, and with the great weight of authority in other jurisdictions. For example, in People v. Davis, 38 Ill.App.3d 649, 348 N.E.2d 533 (1976), the defendant was convicted of the armed robbery of a bakery owner and his wife. At the ... Humphreys, 89 N.J. 4, 444 A.2d 569 (1982); State v. Segotta, 100 N.M. 498, 672 P.2d 1129 (1983); People v. Hall, 46 N.Y.2d 873, 387 N.E.2d 610, 414 N.Y.S.2d 678, cert. denied, 444 U.S. 848, 100 S.Ct. 97, 62 L.Ed.2d 63 (1979); State v. Pinch, 306 N.C. 1, 292 ... ...
  • People v. Ellis, 2012–07219
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • November 28, 2018
    ...319, 325, 670 N.Y.S.2d 4 ; see People v. Knowles, 88 N.Y.2d 763, 766–767, 650 N.Y.S.2d 617, 673 N.E.2d 902 ; People v. Hall, 46 N.Y.2d 873, 875, 414 N.Y.S.2d 678, 387 N.E.2d 610 ). "[O]nce an attorney-client relationship has been formed between assigned counsel and an indigent defendant, th......
  • People v. Childs
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • February 26, 1998
    ...does not have a categorical right to insist that a retained or assigned attorney continue to represent him (People v. Hall, 46 N.Y.2d 873, 875, 414 N.Y.S.2d 678, 387 N.E.2d 610, cert. denied 444 U.S. 848, 100 S.Ct. 97, 62 L.Ed.2d 63; see also, People v. Sides, 75 N.Y.2d 822, 552 N.Y.S.2d 55......
  • People v. Chambers
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • November 14, 1986
    ...defendant was aware of the potential conflict, its risks and whether he desired to knowingly waive it. (See, People v. Hall, 46 N.Y.2d 873, 414 N.Y.S.2d 678, 387 N.E.2d 610, cert. denied 444 U.S. 848, 100 S.Ct. 97, 62 L.Ed.2d 63; People v. Ayala, 86 Misc.2d 99, 381 N.Y.S.2d 655; United Stat......
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