Monday, January 30, 2006

Young v. Runnels (9th Cir. - Jan. 23, 2006)

You've got to check out Judge Noonan's concurrence in this one. Funny, short, and insightful.

This habeas case concerns a defendant (Darris Young) who unknowingly retained a whack job of a lawyer -- Kathryn Dixon (currently disbarred) -- to defend him in a three strikes case. Not only is Dixon a terrible lawyer (check out the majority opinion for a brief description of her repeated incompetence), but she also has various significant delusions. Including being convinced that several public officials -- including but not limited to the Alameda District Attorney -- were members of a pedophile ring that kidnnapped children. Not exactly the lawyer who you want trying to negotiate a plea on your behalf with -- you guess it - the Alameda D.A.! (She's sufficiently convinced of the whole pedophile thing, by the way, that she filed a lawsuit against the Alameda D.A. and others to prove it. Oh boy.)

Anyway, this is the attorney who represents Young. The question is whether his representation by Dixon provided him with the constitutionally required effective assistance of counsel. Here's the last paragraph of Judge Noonan's concurrence:

"It is conceded by all that if Darris Young had been represented by a college student or a cobbler or counsel not admitted to the California bar he would have been denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. But his case is different because he was represented by a fully licensed member of the California bar whom the courts of California took nearly two years to remove from a position where she could harm the public, the courts, and her clients! A fully licensed lawyer with her head full of fantasies and “with complete lack of insight into the wrongfulness of her actions” was counsel enough to satisfy the Sixth Amendment! As Judge Ferguson’s opinion indicates, precedent apparently requires this bizarre conclusion. Only the Supreme Court of the United States can eliminate this cruel parody of the right to counsel."

Interesting, eh? Check out the complete opinion for more exciting details.