People v. Rainey.
2023 CO 14. No. 21SC285. Sixth Amendment—Right to Counsel—Prejudice in General.
April 10, 2023
Rainey was represented by the public defender’s office. He requested a continuance so that his second appointed public defender, who had represented him for about two weeks, could represent him at trial. The trial court denied the request, noting that the case was straightforward and that a new trial date could not be set for many months if the continuance was granted. Rainey appealed, arguing that the Sixth Amendment includes a right to continuity of appointed counsel even though it does not include a right to initial selection of appointed counsel.
The Supreme Court considered whether criminal defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to continued representation by a particular public defender, and under what standard a trial court should determine a defendant’s continuance request to enable continued representation with appointed counsel.
The Court held that, although indigent defendants have an interest in continuity of counsel that must be considered by a court, it is not a right guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. Any Sixth Amendment right to continuity of counsel is a component of the right to choose counsel, and it is settled law that defendants do not have a right to choose a particular appointed attorney. However, when a continuance is requested to allow appointed counsel to represent a defendant at trial, a court should consider whether denying the continuance and substituting counsel would prejudice the defendant.