State v. Causey

Decision Date26 February 1987
Docket NumberNo. 68624,68624
Parties12 Fla. L. Weekly 111 STATE of Florida, Petitioner, v. Brenda CAUSEY, Respondent.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Robert A. Butterworth, Jr., Atty. Gen., and Patricia Conners, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for petitioner.

Michael E. Allen, Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, and Kenneth L. Hosford, Asst. Public Defender, Tallahassee, for respondent.

KOGAN, Justice.

The First District Court of Appeal has certified the following question as being one of great public importance:

Does the language of Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 [87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493] (1967) stating: "If [the court] finds any of the legal points arguable on their merits (and therefore not frivolous) it must, prior to decision, afford the indigent the assistance of counsel to argue the appeal" require that the parties be allowed to submit appellate briefs regarding the meritorious legal points prior to decision?

Causey v. State, 484 So.2d 1263, 1265 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to article V, section 3(b)(4), Florida Constitution. We answer the question in the affirmative and quash the opinion of the district court.

Brenda Causey was convicted of arson after her boyfriend's rented house burned. Following the conviction, her court-appointed counsel filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, stating that she could not make any good faith arguments to support reversible error. Causey did not file a pro se brief within the allotted time period, and the state filed its Anders answer brief. Upon its own review of the record, the first district found reversible error in the trial court's refusal to allow Causey's counsel to impeach the state's main witness during cross-examination. Without requesting the submission of briefs from the parties on that issue, the district court reversed the conviction and remanded the case to the circuit court. *

Before resolving the certified question, a preliminary issue must be addressed. That is, to what extent must a district court review the record pursuant to the filing of an Anders brief? The state contends that Anders requires no more than a cursory review, i.e., only to the extent of errors previously pointed out. To support this contention, the state cites Stokes v. State, 485 So.2d 875 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986). In that case, the district court held that "Anders ... does not require the appellate court to review the record in search of errors not raised by either appellant or his counsel." Id. at 876.

If appellate counsel has already brought possible errors to the attention of the court, then there would be no need to file an Anders brief. The requirement in Anders of submitting a brief stating that the public defender has found no reversible error even worthy of a good faith argument is intended to promote fair appellate review, not stifle it. This requirement was specifically meant to "induce the court to pursue all the more vigorously its own review." Anders, 386 U.S. at 745, 87 S.Ct. at 1400. This implies that some degree of independent review is required, and we disapprove Stokes to the extent that it is inconsistent with the instant opinion.

This is not to say that we read Anders as requiring a "fine tooth comb" style of review. By no means should this opinion be read to require district courts to read between the lines of a record to discover the most remote, unlikely error. At the very least, however, pursuant to Anders, in order to assure indigents fair and meaningful appellate review, the appellate court must examine the record to the extent necessary to discover any errors apparent on the face of the record.

Dissenting in Stokes, Judge Barfield stated that "the better policy is for the appellate court to review the entire record in each case in which an Anders brief has been filed by...

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    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 28 Junio 2019, 22 Fla. Prac., Criminal Practice & Procedure § 20:7 (2019 ed.) (citing Anders v. State, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and State v. Causey, 503 So. 2d 321, 323 (Fla. 1987) (reading Anders to "allow both the appellant and the state to submit briefs on issues that the court has found in its ind......
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