Oregon v. HightowerAnnotate this Case
The issue in this case was the scope of a criminal defendant’s right to self-representation when that right is invoked in the middle of trial. In this case, the trial court concluded that defendant had no right to seek self-representation mid-trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the ground that the trial court’s decision reflected an “apparent” concern about potential disruption of the trial and, because of that concern, did not amount to an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court held that, although Article I, section 11, of the Oregon Constitution established a criminal defendant’s right to represent himself or herself in a criminal proceeding, the right was not unqualified. In particular, when the right is asserted well after trial commences, the trial court retains discretion to weigh its exercise against the constitutional obligation to preserve the integrity and fairness of the proceeding, as well as the court’s interest in ensuring an orderly and expeditious trial. If a trial court exercises that discretion to deny a defendant’s motion for self-representation, it should make a record that reflects how it exercised that discretion.