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Faretta v. Cal.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued November 19, 1974 ; June 30, 1975

No. 73-5772

Opinion

 [*807]   [***566]   [**2527]  MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

 ] The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of our Constitution guarantee that a person brought to trial in any state or federal court must be afforded the right [****3]  to the assistance of counsel before he can be validly convicted and punished by imprisonment. This clear constitutional rule has emerged from a series of cases decided here over the last 50 years. 2 The question before us now is whether a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so. Stated another way, the question is whether a State may constitutionally hale a person into its criminal courts and there force a lawyer upon him, even when he insists that he wants to conduct his own defense. It is not an easy question, but we have concluded that a State may not constitutionally do so.

Anthony Faretta was charged [****4]  with grand theft in an information filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Cal. At the arraignment, the Superior Court Judge assigned to preside at the trial appointed the public defender to represent Faretta. Well before the date of trial, however, Faretta requested that he be permitted to represent himself. Questioning by the judge revealed that Faretta had once represented himself in a criminal prosecution, that he had a high school education, and that he did not want to be represented by the public defender because he believed that that office was "very loaded down with… a heavy case load." The judge  [*808]  responded that he believed Faretta was "making a mistake" and emphasized that in further proceedings Faretta would receive no special favors. 3 Nevertheless, after establishing that Faretta wanted to represent himself and did not want a  [**2528]  lawyer, the judge, in a "preliminary ruling," accepted Faretta's waiver of the assistance of counsel. The judge indicated, however, that he might reverse this ruling if it later appeared that Faretta was unable adequately to represent himself.

 [****5]  Several  [***567]  weeks thereafter, but still prior to trial, the judge sua sponte  held a hearing to inquire into Faretta's ability to conduct his own defense, and questioned him specifically about both the hearsay rule and the state law governing the challenge of potential jurors. 4 [****6]  After  [**2529]  consideration  [*809]  of Faretta's answers, and observation of his demeanor, the judge ruled that Faretta had not made an intelligent and knowing  [***568]  waiver of his right to the assistance  [*810]  of counsel, and also ruled that Faretta had no constitutional right to conduct his own defense. 5 The judge, accordingly, reversed his earlier ruling permitting self-representation and again appointed the public defender to represent Faretta. Faretta's subsequent request for leave to act as cocounsel was rejected, as were his efforts to make certain motions on his own behalf. 6 Throughout  [*811]  the subsequent trial, the judge required that Faretta's defense be conducted only through the appointed lawyer from the public defender's office. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Faretta guilty as charged, and the judge sentenced him to prison.

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422 U.S. 806 *; 95 S. Ct. 2525 **; 45 L. Ed. 2d 562 ***; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 83 ****

FARETTA v. CALIFORNIA

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT

CORE TERMS

self-representation, rights, own defense, the Sixth Amendment, appointment, assistance of counsel, colonial, cases, right to counsel, constitutional right, courts, waive, star chamber, of the Sixth Amendment, witnesses, right to assistance, pro se, intelligent, proceedings, convicted, juror, criminal prosecution, compulsory process, court of appeals, criminal trial, the Amendment, confrontation, conducting, decisions, questions

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Criminal Law & Procedure, Counsel, Right to Counsel, General Overview, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Constitutional Right, Potential Imprisonment, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Appeals, Reversible Error, Bench Trials, Right to Jury Trial, Felonies, Waiver of Jury Trial, Requirements for Waiver, Knowing & Voluntary Waivers, Juries & Jurors, Compulsory Process, Interrogation, Miranda Rights, Right to Confrontation, Bill of Rights, State Application, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Right to Self-Representation