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Joshua P. v. Superior Court (The People)

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

May 29, 2014

JOSHUA P., Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.

ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate. Donna Groman, Judge. Petition granted. No. FJ48628

Page 958

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Page 959

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Page 960

COUNSEL

Ronald L. Brown, Public Defender, Albert J. Menaster, Veronica Ramos, and Michael A. Theberge, Deputy Public Defenders, for Petitioner.

Frederick R. Bennett, for Respondent.

No appearance for Real Party in Interest.

OPINION

CHANEY, J.

In a juvenile delinquency proceeding on one of many petitions filed against Joshua P. over the course of three years, the juvenile court relieved the Public Defender of Los Angeles County as Joshua’s counsel because it believed he was entitled to “continuous representation” by a conflict attorney who had been appointed on an earlier juvenile petition.

In this writ of mandate petition, Joshua challenges the court’s removal of the public defender as his attorney. The superior court opposes the petition, contending: (1) The public defender may not represent a minor in delinquency proceedings unless appointed by the court; (2) the public defender may not make contact with a minor who is a ward of the court outside the presence of previously appointed conflict counsel; and (3) a conflict attorney appointed on a prior petition must be re-appointed on any subsequent petition.

We conclude that when a minor, who in earlier juvenile proceedings was represented by a conflict attorney and declared a ward of the court, is charged in a subsequent petition, the public defender must re-evaluate the minor’s situation and offer representation if the conflict no longer exists and other statutory requirements are met. That representation must commence immediately, before arraignment, and the court may not appoint private counsel to replace the public defender absent a showing that the public defender is unavailable. Accordingly, we grant the petition and direct the juvenile court to vacate its order removing the public defender as Joshua’s counsel.

BACKGROUND

1. First Petition

Joshua P. was born in November 1997. On March 15, 2011, he was charged in a juvenile court delinquency petition (Welf. & Inst. Code, ยง 602) with two counts of misdemeanor ...


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