Zuanich Law Newsletter
Episode #58: Back to School / Contest Episode
June 15, 2021
Like many of your children, the Zuanich Law Newsletter took a summer hiatus / vacation / #metime / break.
But we’re back, baby. Episode #58 waits no longer, which is quite fitting, because in early Medieval times, the number 58 signified a spiritual re-awakening of months sedentary and hedonistic lifestyle choices.
And what better way to inaugurate our return than a Contest. But not a typical contest that you have grown to expect / love / cherish / abhor. Let’s think of this as a detective contest.
Here are three recent COA opinions:
1. Van Wicklen v. Van Wicklen
2. Englund v. Aminpour
3. Berenji v. Alcoba
Tell me what all three opinions have in common and you WIN. (Simple, right?)
The 5 fastest to respond with the correct answer become the elite few who will be randomly drawn to join Megan Dunn as the second subscriber to get their own Episode named after them and be interviewed as part of the episode. Shameless marketing? You may say. Of course.
But now to the main event.
State v. Level
COA – Division 3
August 24, 2021
Sufficiency of Complaint
Facts: Jacob was driving a moped without wearing a helmet. Come on, cut the dude a break. Wait, the moped was stolen? Uh oh spaghettio.
State charged Jacob with possession of stolen motor vehicle. The information alleged that Jacob “did unlawfully possess a stolen motor vehicle.” Jury convicted. Level appeals sufficiency of charging document—first raised on appeal.
Holding: Reversed. The crime of PSV includes an element of knowledge. Appellate courts have ruled that the term “unlawful and felonious” conduct is sufficient to imply guilty knowledge but “unlawfully” isn’t good enough in the context of possession of a stolen property charge. Why, you ask? Glad you asked. Because it’s not a commonsense inference to assume that a Jacob would see the word “unlawfully” and mentally read the words “knowledge that the moped was stolen.” The word “unlawfully,” therefore, does not satisfy the requirements of sufficient notice.
My take: Prosecutors, control paste. Repeat. Control paste. Repeat.
State v. Palmer
COA – Division 2
August 19, 2021
Facts: State charged Palmer with child molestations but allegations irrelevant for our purposes. First court appointed attorney withdrew, citing bad working relationship. Second attorney withdrew, citing that he felt safety at risk. Trial judge let counsel out of case, but made no findings as to whether counsel was in danger. Third attorney also withdrew after Palmer filed lengthy memo saying attorney was ineffective. Trial judge let that attorney out, but made no findings regarding request.
Trial judge says: “That’s it, no more attorneys. You’re going pro se” (I paraphrase for dramatic effect). Palmer loses at trial and appeals.
Holding: Reversed. A defendant can forfeit his right to counsel for engaging in “extremely dilatory” conduct, which is lawyer-speak for threatening his lawyer, ripping up correspondence, hanging up on your lawyer, and demanding that the lawyer file frivolous claims (so, kind of like an obnoxious teenager at times, if “filing frivolous claims” meant “please buy me stupid stuff I don’t need but is really cool). As the Court put it, Palmer certainly delayed trial by cycling through attorneys but the record doesn’t really tell us if it was “extremely” dilatory, or just kind of dilatory or just annoying or just an asshole. No evidence in the record that he was actually threatening or that he refused to communicate with his attorneys.
My take: Trial judges / Pro Tem judges: Read carefully. I can definitely see a trial judge getting frustrated with a defendant like Palmer. One of those opinions I’d keep with me at the bench.
About Us: Zuanich Law focuses on criminal and civil appeals, DOL appeals, and post-conviction relief. Our civil practice focuses on personal injury, family law, breach of contract protection order hearings, property law, landlord-tenant law, and general civil litigation.