Martinez v. Court of Appeals of Cal., Fourth Appellate Dist.

PETITIONER: Martinez
RESPONDENT: Court of Appeals of Cal., Fourth Appellate Dist.
LOCATION: Hawaii Office of Elections

DOCKET NO.: 98-7809
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 528 US 152 (2000)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1999
DECIDED: Jan 12, 2000

ADVOCATES:
Robert Foster - San Diego, California, argued the cause for respondent
Ronald D. Maines - By appointment of the Court, argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner

Facts of the case

Salvador Martinez, a self-described self-taught paralegal with 25 years of experience at 12 different law firms, was working for a Santa Ana, California law firm when a client gave him $6,000.00 to bail her boyfriend out of jail. The bail was never posted and Martinez was subsequently charged with grand theft and the fraudulent appropriation of the property of another. Martinez chose to represent himself at trial before a jury, which acquitted him of theft, but convicted him of embezzlement. Martinez then filed a timely notice of appeal, a motion to represent himself, and a waiver of counsel. The motion to represent himself was denied by the California Court of Appeal. The court explained: "There is no constitutional right to self-representation on the initial appeal as of right. The right to counsel on appeal stems from the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, not from the Sixth Amendment....The denial of self-representation at this level does not violate due process or equal protection guarantees."

Question

Does a criminal defendant have a constitutional right to choose to represent himself on direct appeal?

Media for Martinez v. Court of Appeals of Cal., Fourth Appellate Dist.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1999 in Martinez v. Court of Appeals of Cal., Fourth Appellate Dist.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 98-7809.

The spectators are admonished.

Do not talk until you get out of the courtroom.

The Court remains in session.

We'll hear argument now in No. 97... 98-7809, Salvador Martinez v. the Court of Appeals of California in the Fourth Appellate District.

Mr. Maines.

Ronald D. Maines:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

I would like to begin by making a preliminary observation, which I think is important because it bears on the overall tenor of the case, although I don't think that it affects the proper, ultimate decision of the case.

That is, that Mr. Martinez did represent himself at his trial.

He did not, so far as the record reflects, engage in any untoward antics.

It didn't appear that he was unruly or vitriolic or attempted to espouse a particular political position or anything like that.

He was simply defending himself as a lawyer, retained or court-appointed, would have attempted to do.

I mention this at the outset to, in some sense I hope, blunt the strong suggestion in the briefs of the respondent and its amici that by this Court's determining that an appellant, such as Martinez, has a right to self-representation on direct appeal, it opens up a pandora's box for all manner of... of absurdness to ensue.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

What is the constitutional basis for your claimed right of self-representation on appeal?

What provision do you rely on?

Ronald D. Maines:

Justice O'Connor, it's... it's the Due Process Clause.

And admittedly, it's a little bit of an intricate argument, and I'd like to--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

It's not the Sixth Amendment you rely on.

Ronald D. Maines:

--It is not the Sixth Amendment, no.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And it's not the Equal Protection Clause.

Ronald D. Maines:

It is not the Equal Protection Clause.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

So, due process you fall back on.

Ronald D. Maines:

That's correct.

William H. Rehnquist:

Could you spell that out a little bit?

Ronald D. Maines:

I will.

There have been a series of decisions over the years, over the decades by this Court involving the right to counsel, which I urge is the basic, generic right that's in play in this case, the right to represent one's interests in an adversary setting, criminal setting.

The Court in its decisions over the years has said that there is a particular set or range or spectrum of points, stages along the way where the liberty interest of the defendant is particularly significant.

It begins at arraignment.

It ends at the point of direct appeal.

And thus it is that the Court can find, as it did in Evitts v. Lucey, that a defendant, a criminal defendant, has a right to an attorney, a constitutional right to an attorney, on direct appeal in a State court proceeding.