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United States v. White

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILLIP A. WHITE, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REMOVE COUNSEL, GRANTING DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR NEW COURT-APPOINTED COUNSEL, AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW PLEA OF GUILTY [#44]

          DENISE PAGE HOOD CHIEF, U.S. DISTRICT COURT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 16, 2015, Defendant Phillip White (“White”) was charged by Indictment with Carjacking (Count I) and Use of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence (Count II). (Doc # 8) Pursuant to a Stipulated Order, a jury trial was set for November 15, 2016. (Doc # 25) Todd Shanker of the Federal Defender Office was appointed to represent White. Shanker filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel (Doc # 26), which was granted by the Court. (Doc # 28) The Court appointed John W. Brusstar to represent White as counsel in November 2016. Pursuant to a Stipulated Order, a jury trial was set for March 21, 2017. (Doc # 26) White entered into a Rule 11 Plea Agreement with the Government. A plea hearing was held on March 20, 2017, and the Court accepted the Rule 11 Plea Agreement and White's plea of guilty, finding that the plea was knowingly, freely, and voluntarily made. (Doc # 42)

         This matter is now before the Court on White's requests to remove counsel, be granted a new court-appointed attorney, and for permission to withdraw his guilty plea. White alleges that there has been a total and irreconcilable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship to such an extent that it is in his best interest that new counsel be appointed to represent his interests.

         White also requests that he be allowed to withdraw his plea of guilty to seek advice from newly-appointed counsel. The Government has not filed a response.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Remove Counsel

         The Local Rules provide that an attorney making an appearance on behalf of a defendant continues to represent the defendant through an appeal unless the district court grants a motion to withdraw prior to the notice of appeal being filed. E.D. Mich. L.Cr.R. 57.1(a). It is well established that a criminal defendant accused of a felony has a constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to be represented by counsel and to have counsel appointed for him if he cannot afford one, or, alternatively, to represent himself in such proceedings. Faretta v. California, 442 U.S. 806 (1975). The “essential aim of the Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each criminal defendant rather than to ensure that a defendant will inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he prefers.” Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S. 153, 159 (1988). The Sixth Amendment does not guarantee a “meaningful relationship” between a defendant and his attorney. Morriss v. Slappy, 461 U.S. 1, 14 (1983). A motion for new court appointed counsel based upon a defendant's dissatisfaction with his counsel is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. United States v. White, 451 F.2d 1225 (6th Cir. 1971). The defendant's right “to court appointed counsel does not carry with it the right to select a particular attorney.” Id.

         The Court grants White's request to remove Mr. Brusstar as his counsel because both White and Mr. Brusstar agree that there has been a complete breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. The Court, however, does not make any finding regarding Mr. Brusstar's representation of White. The Court also grants White's request for a new court-appointed attorney.

         B. Motion for Permission to Withdraw Guilty Plea

         The test for validity of a guilty plea is whether the plea was entered voluntarily and intelligently. Railey v. Webb, 540 F.3d 393, 417 (6th Cir. 2008); Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56 (1985). If followed, Rule 11 discourages attacks on the validity of a guilty plea. Id. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 11(d) states:

A defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere:
(1) before the court accepts the plea, for any reason or no reason; or
(2) after the court accepts the plea, but before it imposes ...

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