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Clear Right to Attorney on Post-Conviction Relief Application-Court Rules

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has made it clear that a first time applicant for Post-Conviction Relief shall have a right to an attorney.  The Court, interperting RI Gen. Laws Section 10-9.1-5, found that a first time applicant should be referred to the Public Defender’s office and should that office not be available for representation, then the court shall appoint a a private attorney.  The Court’s reasoning was straight-forward and explained its prior holding in Shatney v. State [755 A.2d 130 (R.I. 2000)].  Specifically, the Court held:

‘…that an indigent, first-time applicant for postconviction relief is entitled to be represented in the first instance by the Public Defender, who shall meet with the applicant for a preliminary inquiry into the claim or claims which may form the basis of the requested relief.  In cases in which the Public Defender “is excused from representing the applicant because of a confilct of interest or is otherwise unable to provide representation, the court shall assign counsel to represent the applicant.’

The Court further expressed that in cases where the attorney cannot find grounds to continue, the attorney may seek to withdraw from the case.  See, Campbell v. State

Categories: Civil, Criminal, Recent Decisions.

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