Apr 142010

MADISON (WPR) A case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court could test the limits of the constitutional right to be represented by a competent lawyer.

The court heard oral arguments this week in a case where a legally deaf defendant is demanding he be granted the right to replace his lawyer.  40-year-old Dwight Jones says he can’t communicate well enough with his current court appointed lawyer to present an adequate defense.

Jones is currently serving time on drug dealing charges but he’s appealing a different case in which he was convicted of car theft.  His attorney says he informed the court well before the trial that he wanted new representation, but the judge in the case ruled it was too late to appoint a new one.

During the oral arguments broadcast live on the Wisconsin Eye Network, Justice Anne Walsh Bradley asked Assistant Attorney General Eileen Pray — the state prosecutor in the case — if the right to an attorney has a price tag on it.  She said it’s bothersome to her that if one is rich enough, one can choose their attorney.  But if one is poor, they’re indigent and lack the constitutional right.

“Does that bother you?” Justice Bradley asked Pray.

Pray replied that the right to an attorney is a qualified one, and the qualifications are that one has enough money to choose the person they want to,  and not creating delays or conflicts of interest in the process.

“A person has a right to spend their money in the way they see fit,” added Pray.

The prosecution claims that in this case the only reason Jones wanted a new attorney was because he couldn’t convince his first one that he was innocent.

– Thanks to NVRC, By Gil Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, 4/13/10 and http://www.fox21online.com/news/wisconsin-high-court-hears-deaf-defendant%E2%80%99s-claims-inadequate-defense