Monday, March 31, 2008

SC Supreme Court holds that filing of an ODC complaint is not grounds to remove appointed PCR counsel

In Richardson v. State, the State Supreme Court dealt with the issue of a PCR judge refusing to relieve PCR counsel. The court addressed this matter because of the recurring problem of PCR applicants seeking repeatedly to have their appointed counsel relieved. The court reiterated that there is no constitutional obligation to appoint counsel in a PCR matter. The court further noted that a PCR applicant is not entitled to appointed counsel of his choice. The applicant has the right to reject or discharge court-appointed counsel and proceed pro se or to retain his own counsel. The court observed that a common tactic in PCR matters is for the applicant to file a complaint against appointed counsel with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The complaint has been used as a basis for a motion to relieve counsel. The court cautioned the trial bench that the filing of a disciplinary complaint should not result in automatic removal of appointed counsel. If this were the case, applicants could easily abuse the system and obtain substitute counsel by the simple matter of filing an ethical complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

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