United States v. Velazquez, No. 14-10311 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit vacated convictions related to defendant's guilty plea on the ground that she was constructively denied her right to counsel when the district court denied her motions to substitute counsel without conducting an adequate inquiry. In this case, defendant did everything in her power to alert the district court to her belief that she was receiving inadequate assistance of counsel; the record reflected serious breakdowns in communicaiton and trust; defendant filed her motions promptly; and even if her motions could be considered untimely; the district court's failure to conduct an adequate inquiry and the extent of the conflict outweigh any untimeliness. The Ninth Circuit concluded that there was a substantial risk that defendant agreed that she was satisfied with her attorney's performance because the magistrate judge pressured her to accept the plea and she knew that she had to make that statement to enter the plea.