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NACDL News: NACDL Presses Support for the Right to Counsel at First Appearance
By John Gross
NACDL News columns.
On January 17, NACDL and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice filed a brief as Amici Curiae in the case of Farrow v. Lipetzky, which is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case involves an appeal from a district court ruling that indigent defendants are not entitled to appointed counsel at their first appearance before a California magistrate. In 2012, NACDL adopted a board resolution calling for “counsel at the first appearance before a judicial officer at which liberty is at stake or at which a plea of guilty to any criminal charge may be entered.”
NACDL’s amicus brief points out that the initial appearance before a magistrate is clearly a “critical stage of the proceedings.” A defendant who appears before a magistrate in California can enter a plea, can request bail or release on his/her own recognizance, can request discovery, and may have his or her speedy trial rights compromised without the assistance of counsel. The brief was authored by Gia Cincone of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP in San Francisco, Calif., and is available in the Amicus section of NACDL’s website. NACDL has supported similar efforts in the past to ensure that indigent defendants receive the guiding hand of counsel at their first appearance before a judicial officer who has the power to take away their liberty. In particular, NACDL’s briefs in DeWolfe v. Richmond and Rothgery v. Gillespie County are also available on the association’s website.