Appeals court won’t hear challenge in public defender appointment case

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Diego has decided not to hear a challenge to how private attorneys are appointed to represent indigent defendants. The petition was filed by attorneys for Jane Dorotik, who won a new trial for the former Valley Center woman after years of reinvestigating her case.

Monday’s ruling by the appeals court does not mean the matter has been settled. Michael Cavalluzzi, one of Dorotik’s attorneys who filed the brief asking the court to take up the matter, said he plans to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.

Dorotik was convicted of murdering her husband Robert in 2001. Beginning in 2016, the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent took up her case and over the next few years dismantled large chunks of the forensic evidence that was the basis of the conviction.

This work eventually led the county attorney to admit that the original conviction could no longer stand. However, the office decided to retry Dorotik, and lawyers for the innocence plan brought in Cavalluzzi to handle the preliminary hearing.

He did it for free. When Dorotik was ordered to stand trial after an extended hearing of nearly a year, Cavalluzzi asked that she be appointed an attorney and be paid at the rate set by the county. But a judge refused, citing a state law that said appointments of private attorneys for indigent defendants can only be made when the local public defender is unable to do so.

San Diego has a unique system of four separate public defender offices, all under the umbrella of the chief public defender, which operate independently. While the Primary Public Defender could not take Dorotik’s case because of a legal conflict, the Deputy Public Defender said he could.

In the end, prosecutors dropped the case against Dorotik shortly before jury selection began, and after Cavalluzzi said he would continue to represent her for free. But her lawyers asked the appeals court to reconsider the decision not to appoint him.

They argued that requiring all four public defender offices to declare a conflict was a misunderstanding of the law and set a bad precedent. They were joined by other innocence groups who said the decision pitted the interests of government law firms against those of defendants whose often complex cases have been retried by private lawyers.

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Appeals court won’t hear challenge in public defender appointment case Source link Appeals court won’t hear challenge in public defender appointment case

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