Can a public defender who has been on my case just stop representing me? 44 Answers as of June 16, 2011

He was with me for six court appearances then at the date of the preliminary hearing he was transferred. Is this legal? What can I do?

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Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
If by transferred you mean to another part of the same court then he may or may not be able to continue to represent you. If he was transferred to another court or another jurisdiction then he probably can not represent you anymore. In any case there should be a court order relieving him of representing you and assigning another attorney to you.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/16/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
You are technically represented by the head public defender (the district defender), but your individual PD acted as his representative. In other words, the office represents you, not any individual PD. PDs can and do transfer quite regularly. Your case will be assigned to someone else.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/15/2011
Lowenstein Law Office
Lowenstein Law Office | Anthony Lowenstein
You can stop paying your public defender. For more information, please see my website or call me for a legal consultation.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/14/2011
Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre
Law Office of Jonathan T. Sarre | Jonathan T. Sarre
Public defenders offices sometimes have different departments and people do move around like in any other organization. If your lawyer was reassigned, the office will give you another lawyer to represent you. That person will get up to speed on your case and hopefully do a good job you. It's inconvenient but part of life.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 6/14/2011
Law Office of Phillip Weiser
Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
If the attorney who was appointed to your case was transferred, you have the right to have a replacement attorney appointed. You should not just be abandoned. Make sure the judge knows what happened and tell him you still want representation.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    You state that your public defender was "transferred". If he is no longer in your area or with the agency you will be appointed a new attorney.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    Yes, it is legal. When you have a public defender, you get few, if any, choices as to who or when you will be represented. The system feels it is enough that you get free representation. Sorry. In some things in life you do get what you pay for. This may be one of those instances where it pays to find a way to hire your own attorney. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Vermeulen Law office P.A.
    Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Cynthia J.Vermeulen
    The rules for public defenders vary from state to state and may be different within the state as well. It is certainly possible that a public defender (court appointed attorney) may be transferred to another position. In this event, you will likely be assigned another public defender. In order to be sure you will keep the same attorney throughout your case, hire an experience criminal defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    Certainly, this is legal. It does not sound as if there is any imperative reason for him to stay through a transfer just to represent you in this case. Do not worry, another public defender will be appointed to represent you, and believe me when I say this: ALMOST ALL public defenders ARE good lawyers!
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Michael Morgan, l.L.C.
    Law Office of Michael Morgan, l.L.C. | Michael Morgan
    Public defenders can and often do reassign cases to other lawyers in their office because they may take a new job or be reassigned within their agency.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    For various reasons a public defender can cease his representation. In the event this happens you should request that the Court determine whether you can be appointed someone to represent you in their place.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    You are being represented by the Office of the Public Defender. Any attorney from that office can represent you. While you might be disappointed that your specific attorney no longer is helping you, unless you have an issue with his replacement you cannot force the office to supply you with a different attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law | Eric Mark
    Yes. The public defender's office should appoint you a new lawyer who should be given time to familiarize himself with the case before proceeding.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    As long as the public defender's office provides you with another lawyer, as I am confident they will, then, in my opinion, you have no legitimate complaint at this time. Of course, you could also talk with your family about hiring a lawyer, if you wish to do so. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    There is not much you can do about which public defender is assigned to your case. If your last public defender was transferred, you have to give the new public defender some time to work on the case.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman
    Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman | Scott G. Hilderman
    The public defender should provide you with a new attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    You get counsel, not the counsel you choose. Yes, they can assign a new public defender.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    My advice is simple; ask for a new attorney. Yes, it is legal for an attorney to be substituted. Attorneys may need to withdraw from a case for any number of different reasons. Ultimately, whether an attorney is allowed to withdraw is a matter of judicial discretion. However, most judges will allow substitutions of council as long as the case is not near a critical stage in the proceeding, like a trial, for example. You may need to notify the court that you do not currently have an attorney; however, the courts deal with this issue on a regular basis. It may slow your case down, potentially, if a new attorney needs time to familiarize themselves with the facts. However, your right to council is a constitutional right. If you are currently represented and your court-appointed council needs to leave for some reason, you will potentially either have a new attorney appointed to represent you or, if you have a public defender's office, they may just assign someone to take the case over. Further, you may still be able to retain the council of your choice if you wished to go that route.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Vermeulen Law office P.A.
    Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Jacob T. Erickson
    Attorneys move around just like anyone else. You have been appointed a public defender, so any attorney from the public defender's office can be sent to represent you. You only get to choose your lawyer if you privately pay one to represent you.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Michael Moody
    Law Office of Michael Moody | Michael Moody
    The public defender can only stop representing you if he/she files a Motion to Withdraw from the case. The attorney must send you a copy of the Motion to Withdraw, and have 10 days to object to the withdrawal. Also, the public defender could stop representing you if your income level rose to the point that you no longer qualified for a free lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    The public defender would have to seek permission from the court before he/she could withdraw from the case.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    You are not represented by a specific public defender, but by the OFFICE of the public defender. Your attorney can be changed at any time.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Yes. the public defender's office controls what attorneys are assigned to what cases. In some instances, a public defender can be substituted based on case loads or other considerations. The only way you get to choose your own attorney is to hire one.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    Just as you can ask to dismiss an attorney, the attorney can dismiss you as a client. Certainly a transfer of other reasons can justify such a change. You still have a right to counsel. However, you do not have a right to a particular attorney. I hope that this was helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    I'm sorry that happened to you but this is something that occurs sometimes. You will obviously get another attorney who will be given time to get fully up to speed on your case. When you're getting free representation you do not have a say who your attorney is.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    You don't have the right to select who will represent you, unless you hire your own counsel. I would think the only possible relief you would get would be additional time before trial, so your new counsel could prepare. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Thomas J. Ogas
    Law Office of Thomas J. Ogas | Thomas Ogas
    Yes, this is legal. You are technically represented by THE Public Defender a bureaucrat who runs the Public Defenders office. He employs many Deputy Public Defenders whose job is to handle the 1000s of cases that are sent to him each year. They can transfer or reassign Deputy PDs as necessary. You don't get to choose which one handles your case. The only way you get to choose who represents you is to hire your own attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Was he part of a Defenders Office? Is there someone to take his place. Does the new attorney know the case? These are all things I would need to know before answering this question. Consult an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    What's wrong with a different public defender representing you? If you have a concern, discuss it with the current defender assigned to represent you.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
    This is a question regarding the right to a specified attorney. If you receive a public defender, you may not necessarily always be entitled to the same public defender. The public defender could be fired, transferred or a variety of other things may occur that prevent the attorney from being present. Frequently, if another standby public defender is available the court may allow that public defender to stand in. It is the responsibility of the public defender to request a continuance if he feels that, due to unfamiliarity and lack of preparation, he cannot effectively represent you. You may also object to the hearing occurring under those circumstances, but the court may proceed anyway. This could be an appellate issue. Hiring your own attorney means he is your attorney. Your attorney has a responsibility to tell you if someone else will stand in for him.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    You will be assigned another PD. It is not your decision. Or, you could hire private counsel if you can actually afford it. If so, contact me.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    You are technically represented by the public defender's office, not the individual lawyer. Consequently, if he is now in another county, you probably have to go with who they assign. A "new" public defender on your case can probably ask for more time to prepare although the judge and you may not be happy about the delay. Sometimes delay can work in your favor.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    It happens. Nature of office.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    The public defender works for the state. The state has the right to transfer public defenders to other locations. If this is what occurred, a new public defender will be assigned to your case.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    It sounds like you were not represented by a particular lawyer but the entity of Legal Aid itself, which has a staff of lawyers, and your file was assigned to a different lawyer when the lawyer who had your file left legal aid. Since you are represented by the entity and not an individually retained lawyer you have no say over whom in the firm actually shows up in court and represents you. While you have the right to counsel of your choosing, when you cannot afford a lawyer and Legal Aid is appointed your "lawyer" is legal aid, not "Bob Jones, Esq." So yes, there is nothing improper about this. What you could do, however, is retain the lawyer who left and you liked, however you will have to pay him yourself.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Brian Walker Law Firm, P.C.
    Brian Walker Law Firm, P.C. | Brian Walker
    If by "transferred" you mean that another attorney from his firm took over, or that another attorney was appointed, yes, this is legal. Usually, though, a court-appointed attorney cannot simply leave the case unless the client fails to appear at some hearing. There are of course exceptions to this general rule. I know it may be difficult but your best bet is to hire your own attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    The court appointed the office of the Public Defender to represent you, not a particular attorney. You can certainly request (through the public defender's office) for that attorney to continue on with your case, but they can assign whatever attorney and reassign cases as they see fit. If you're unhappy with your current attorney, you are always free to hire the attorney of your choosing if you can afford to do so.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Yes it is legal, as long as the PD's Office gives you another attorney, because technically you are not represented by him, but by the whole office. Consider getting a private attorney who will represent you from start to finish.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of Matthew Murillo
    Law Offices of Matthew Murillo | Matthew Murillo
    Unfortunately, you can't really do anything about it. Technically, you could have a different public defender at every hearing. You are being represented by the "Law Offices Of The Public Defender" not that specific public defender. This is one reason some people choose to hire a private attorney to defend them.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    You are represented by the public defender's firm (I.e. Legal Aid) not the particular lawyer so, yes, any of their attorneys can show up to represent you. There isn't much you cam do other than hire a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of Carl Spector
    Law Offices of Carl Spector | Carl Spector
    Unfortunately, when you are represented by the public defenders office you can not choose who your lawyer is and you can not control who will actually stand up on your case in any given day. You can try to hire your own private criminal defense attorney that will always be with you in court at every appearance.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    I'm not sure what you mean by he was "transferred." Did he get another job and is now no longer a public defender? If that is the case, then a new one should be assigned to you should there be some reason that he can no longer do it. Other than that, an attorney (even a public defender) would have to make a motion to the judge to be dismissed as your counsel and state good reasons on the record. You can hire your own lawyer as well, but a public defender simply cannot just stop showing up with no other public defender to take over for him. Contact the public defender office and find out what is going on.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
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