Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Office of State Public Defender v. Fagenstrom

Supreme Court of Montana

May 1, 2019

OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN T. FAGENSTROM, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING: Petition for Writ of Supervisory Control In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. CR-265-2018-660 Honorable Steven Fagenstrom, Presiding Judge

          For Petitioner: Rhonda Schaffer, Director, Peter B. Ohman, Administrator, Office of State Public Defender, Bozeman, Montana

          For Respondent: Honorable Steven T. Fagenstrom, self-represented, Cascade County Justice of the Peace, Great Falls, Montana

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Dirk M. Sandefur Justice

         ¶1 By petition filed March 1, 2019, the Montana Office of State Public Defender (OPD) petitions this Court to exercise supervisory control over the Cascade County Justice Court regarding certain orders directing OPD to appoint a public defender to represent the underlying criminal defendant[1] on the sole charged offense of theft, a misdemeanor in violation of § 45-6-301(1), MCA.[2] Pursuant to §§ 47-1-104(4) and 46-8-101(3), MCA, OPD asserts that the Justice Court has no authority to compel it to provide a public defender to represent an indigent criminal defendant charged with a non-jailable misdemeanor offense. OPD thus asserts that the Justice Court is proceeding under a mistake of law for which OPD has no right of ordinary appeal, thereby resulting in gross injustice by requiring it to act in excess of its statutory duty and authority. In response, the Justice Court contrarily asserts that the underlying defendant has an unwaived right to government-provided counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article II, Section 24, of the Montana Constitution. The Justice Court further asserts that "any legislation," such as § 46-8-101, MCA, "enacted for the purpose of taking away a [d]efendant's right to [counsel] and thus save money is unconstitutional." Upon consideration of OPD's petition, the Justice Court's response, limited facts of record, and governing law, we find that exercise of supervisory control is necessary and proper and accordingly reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         1. Whether exercise of supervisory control is necessary and proper in this case?

         2. Whether the Justice Court erroneously denied OPD's motion to rescind its order for appointment of counsel pursuant to §§ 47-1-104(4) and 46-8-101(3), MCA?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Alleging that the defendant exercised "unauthorized control" with purpose to deprive the owner of property with an alleged value of $650, the State charged the defendant by complaint with the offense of theft, a misdemeanor in violation of § 45-6-301(1), MCA. Based on the limited record provided, the charge is currently pending in justice court on an unsworn, standard-form Notice to Appear and Complaint issued by a deputy of the Cascade County Sheriff on August 28, 2018, referencing the alleged commission of the offense on that same date.[3] The complaint does not specify whether the offense is charged as a first or subsequent offense. However, in subsequent orders regarding appointment of counsel on December 10, 2018, January 23, 2019, and February 27, 2019, the Justice Court asserts that the defendant is charged with first-offense misdemeanor theft, in violation of § 45-6-301, MCA.

         ¶3 At her combined initial appearance and arraignment on the charge in or about early December 2018, the defendant pled not guilty and, in response to questions from the court, stated her desire for counsel, stated she could not afford to hire private counsel, and requested a public defender. On December 10th, the court issued a written order directing OPD to appoint a public defender. However, upon OPD's motion asserting that § 45-6-301(7)(a), MCA (2017), precludes "jail time" as an available sentencing option on a conviction for first-offense misdemeanor theft, the Justice Court issued a subsequent written order rescinding its prior order for appointment of counsel.

         ¶4 By sua sponte order filed January 23, 2019, the Justice Court reversed course a second time and, without elaboration, again ordered OPD to appoint counsel to represent the defendant on "1st Offense" theft. OPD responded and again moved the court to rescind the order pursuant to §§ 47-1-104(4)(a)(i) and 45-6-301(7)(a), MCA (2017). Following a "brief hearing on the motion," the Justice Court subsequently issued written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment denying the motion. Though expressly noting that the case was charged as a first offense and that § 45-6-301(7)(a) (2017) thus precluded incarceration as a sentencing option, the Justice Court denied the motion to rescind on the asserted ground that an uncounseled conviction on a first offense would, as a matter of law, render any second or subsequent conviction for theft "constitutionally infirm." OPD seeks immediate review by supervisory control.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5 1. Whether exercise of supervisory control is necessary ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.