State v. Dudley

Citation766 N.W.2d 606
Decision Date29 May 2009
Docket NumberNo. 06-0049.,06-0049.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Larry Gene DUDLEY, Sr., Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Martha J. Lucey, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas W. Andrews, Assistant Attorney General, and Alan M. Wilson, County Attorney, for appellee.

TERNUS, Chief Justice.

The appellant, Larry Dudley, appeals from postacquittal orders requiring him to reimburse the State for the cost of legal assistance provided at public expense. The court of appeals held these orders and the statute pursuant to which they were entered, Iowa Code section 815.9 (2005), did not violate the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel, the equal protection and due process guarantees of the United States Constitution, or the debtor's clause of the Iowa Constitution. The court of appeals also rejected Dudley's claim he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to object to certain aspects of the court-ordered payment plan, concluding Dudley was not entitled to counsel for postacquittal proceedings.

We granted Dudley's application for further review. Upon our consideration of the issues, we hold the court's failure to consider Dudley's ability to reimburse the State for the costs of his defense infringed his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. In addition, we conclude Dudley's right to equal protection was violated in two ways: (1) the court-ordered repayment plan effectively deprived Dudley of the statutory exemptions from execution on civil judgments that are available to other civil judgment debtors; and (2) chapter 815 restricts the restitution obligation of a convicted defendant represented by a public defender to a statutory fee, but not the repayment or restitution obligation of all other indigent defendants, including acquitted defendants such as Dudley. We also conclude the district court erroneously included the statutory court reporter fee in the sum Dudley was required to repay. Finally, we find no due-process violation under the facts of this case. Based on our determination that Dudley's constitutional rights were violated, we vacate the court of appeals decision, reverse the district court judgment, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In October 2004, appellant, Larry Dudley, was charged with a criminal offense. Based on his indigency, the district court appointed counsel to defend him. A jury found Dudley not guilty of the criminal charge, and on November 8, 2005, the court dismissed the case.

On November 22, the district court sua sponte made a calendar entry in the criminal case requiring Dudley to reimburse the State for the total costs of his legal assistance on or before November 30. See Iowa Code § 815.9(4) (providing that costs of legal assistance "shall become due and payable ... within thirty days of the acquittal or dismissal"). The court further stated that, if the costs were not paid by this date, a judgment would be entered against Dudley for any unpaid amounts. See id. § 815.9(9) (requiring judgment for any unpaid costs of legal assistance be entered against person acquitted).

Dudley's defense counsel filed a motion requesting a hearing on the legality of the court's order and an alternative request for a monthly payment plan. See id. § 815.9(7) (requiring court to order payment of costs "in reasonable installments" if not paid within thirty days of acquittal or dismissal). Among other arguments not pertinent to this appeal, Dudley claimed Iowa Code section 815.9 violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, his due process and equal protection rights under the United States Constitution, and the debtor clause of the Iowa Constitution. An evidentiary hearing was held on Dudley's motion at which Dudley testified to his limited financial resources and introduced supporting documentation. The court subsequently entered a written ruling overruling all constitutional challenges, entering judgment against Dudley for all costs of legal assistance, and ordering him to pay the judgment at the rate of $200 per month. A contemporaneous "Fine Payment Plan Order" set forth a schedule for payment and notified Dudley that, if he failed to pay the judgment in full, he would be ordered to appear before the court to show why he should not be held in contempt.

Dudley filed this appeal, and the case was transferred to the court of appeals. The court of appeals rejected Dudley's claims, as described above. This court granted further review.

II. Scope of Review.

Our review of constitutional claims is de novo. In re Det. of Morrow, 616 N.W.2d 544, 547 (Iowa 2000). To the extent we are required to engage in statutory construction, our review is for correction of errors at law. State v. Sluyter, 763 N.W.2d 575, 579 (Iowa 2009).

III. Overview of Statutory Scheme.

Section 815.9 provides for the appointment of counsel at state expense for indigent defendants. See Iowa Code § 815.9(1)(a). It also imposes a repayment obligation on indigent defendants for the cost of legal assistance provided by the State. Id. § 815.9(3). All costs and fees incurred for legal assistance are due and payable not later than the date of sentencing for convicted defendants and within thirty days of acquittal or dismissal for acquitted defendants. Id. § 815.9(4). If the costs of defense are not paid within the required period, the court is required to "order payment of the costs and fees in reasonable installments" and to enter "a judgment ... against the person for any unpaid amounts." Id. § 815.9(7), (9). Other relevant provisions of the statutes governing indigent defendants' reimbursement and restitution obligations will be discussed in connection with the issue to which they are pertinent.

IV. Issues.

A. Right to Counsel. Dudley argues the mandatory reimbursement obligation imposed on acquitted defendants without any consideration of their ability to pay infringes on such defendants' constitutional right to counsel in the criminal proceeding. He asserts indigent defendants will be discouraged from accepting the services of court-appointed counsel if faced with the prospect of having to pay for the costs of legal defense without regard to whether they have the means to do so. As a result, he claims, the statute has a chilling effect on indigent defendants' exercise of their constitutional right to counsel.

B. Equal Protection Claim.

Dudley contends various aspects of the cost recovery scheme of chapter 815 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Only one of these claims was preserved for review: that indigent defendants as a class are treated less favorably than other civil judgment debtors.1 Dudley's two other equal-protection arguments were not raised below. Therefore, we address the latter two issues within his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. See State v. Hernandez-Lopez, 639 N.W.2d 226, 233 (Iowa 2002).

C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

Dudley also makes a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, identifying three arguments he believes his trial counsel should have made in the postacquittal proceedings. First, he contends his attorney should have raised two additional equal-protection claims. Those claims are: (1) indigent defendants represented by a public defender are treated more favorably in the form of reduced attorney fees than indigent defendants represented by a private attorney who has contracted with the public defender to provide services to indigent defendants, and (2) indigent defendants who are acquitted are treated less favorably with respect to their repayment obligations than indigent defendants who are convicted. Finally, Dudley also argues his counsel had a duty to object to the improper inclusion of a court reporter fee in the costs assessed against him.

The State asserts that postacquittal proceedings under chapter 815 are civil in nature, and therefore, Dudley had no right to counsel in those proceedings. As a consequence, the State contends, Dudley has no basis for an ineffective-assistance claim.

D. Due Process. Dudley also challenges the recoupment statute on state and federal due process grounds. He asserts indigent defendants are not given adequate notice at the time counsel is appointed of their mandatory reimbursement obligation. In addition, he argues section 815.9 violates the Due Process Clause because it provides no opportunity for a hearing on the amount of the costs of legal assistance prior to entry of the recoupment order and judgment.

E. Debtor's Clause. Dudley's final constitutional challenge to section 815.9 is based on the debtor clause of the Iowa Constitution. See Iowa Const. art. I, § 19 ("No person shall be imprisoned for debt in any civil action, on mense or final process, unless in case of fraud[.]"). He asserts the use of contempt to enforce a chapter 815 cost judgment, as was threatened by the court in this case, violates the debtor clause. This claim presupposes that contempt proceedings may be used against an acquitted indigent defendant who fails to pay the costs of legal assistance. We have recently held that a district court has no authority to invoke its power of contempt to enforce a judgment entered against an acquitted indigent defendant under chapter 815. Sluyter, 763 N.W.2d at 585. Because it is now established that the court cannot use its contempt power to enforce the judgment it entered against Dudley and because we are confident the court will not do so in light of our Sluyter decision, we do not address Dudley's debtor-clause challenge.

V. Infringement on Right to Counsel.

Dudley claims the mandatory reimbursement required by section 815.9 chills the exercise of his constitutional right to counsel. See U.S. Const. amend. VI; Iowa Const. art. I, § 10. He argues a defendant faced...

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