Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halbert v. Michigan case brief

Halbert v. Michigan case brief summary
545 U.S. 605 (2005)

Petitioner was convicted on a plea of nolo contendere of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Petitioner sought the appointment of counsel to assist him in applying for leave to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The lower courts denied petitioner's requests for appointed counsel, and the Michigan Supreme Court declined review. Certiorari was granted to consider whether the denial of appointed counsel violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

The issue was whether the instant case should have been aligned with prior precedent requiring the state to appoint counsel for an indigent defendant's first-tier appeal as of right or precedent that did not require the state to appoint counsel for an indigent seeking to pursue a second-tier discretionary appeal.

  • Two aspects of the Michigan Court of Appeals' process following plea-based convictions led to the outcome that precedent concerning first-tier appeal as of right provided the controlling instruction. 
  • First, in determining how to dispose of an application for leave to appeal under Mich. Comp. Laws § 770.3a (2000), Michigan's intermediate appellate court looked to the merits of the claims made in the application. 
  • Second, indigent defendants pursuing first-tier review in the Michigan Court of Appeals were generally ill equipped to represent themselves. 
  • In this case, petitioner had not waived the right to appointed counsel by entering the nolo contendere plea because at the time he entered the plea, he had no recognized right to appointed appellate counsel that he could have elected to forgo.
The judgment of the Michigan Court of Appeals was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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