Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Fla. v. StateAnnotate this Case
Two decisions of the Third District Court of Appeal were before the Supreme Court here. In the first case (Public Defender), the Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit filed motions in several criminal cases seeking to be relieved of the obligations to represent indigent defendants in non-capital felony cases. The trial court permitted the Public Defender to decline appointments in future third-degree felony cases. The court of appeal reversed. In the second case (Bowens), an assistant public defender filed a motion to withdraw from representing a defendant, alleging that his excessive caseload created a conflict of interest. The circuit court granted the motion, but the court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court (1) quashed the court of appeal's decision in Public Defender and remanded, holding (i) aggregate/systemic motions to withdraw are appropriate where there is an office-wide or widespread problem as to effective representation, and (ii) the Public Defender demonstrated cause for withdrawal in this case; and (2) quashed in part and affirmed in part the decision in Bowens, holding that Fla. Stat. 27.5303(1)(d) is facially constitutional but should not preclude a public defender from filing a motion to withdraw based on excessive caseload or underfunding that would result in ineffective representation of indigent clients.