THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v.ALEXANDER ALBERTO FRIAS, Defendant and Appellant. 2023 WL 8658552 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.)
Summary: Frias appealed his conviction after the jury found him guilty of stalking. Frias claimed that the trial court, in denying his four requests to substitute the Castaneda Law firm as his counsel, violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice. Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Frias’s first three requests to substitute in the Castaneda firm because the firm’s attorneys were not ready for trial and the case had been pending for three years, during which time four different attorneys had handled Frias’s defense at his request. The denial of Frias’s fourth request was an abuse of discretion.
At the time of the fourth request, the case had been pending for three-and-a-half years, the case was set for trial and the prosecutor and deputy public defender had announced ready for trial. This time, however, an attorney from the Castaneda firm announced he was ready for trial. Although the trial court was concerned that the Castaneda firm’s attorneys would seek a further continuance to prepare for trial once the firm was appointed, or that Frias on the day of trial would yet again seek to substitute in new counsel. Nothing in the record shows that the Castaneda firm was not prepared for trial, and the court did not make a further inquiry to confirm its suspicion the firm was not ready. The court’s concerns were not sufficient grounds on which to deny Frias’s request to have retained counsel of his choice. If the Castaneda firm’s attorneys later requested a continuance or Frias requested new counsel, the court retained the discretion to deny the requests.