August 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Supervising Attorney Must Be Present in Courtroom at All Critical Stages of Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. McGlaughlin on Thursday, August 8, 2018.

Civil ProcedureStudent AttorneySixth AmendmentRight to Counsel. 

McGlaughlin pleaded guilty to third degree assault and violation of a protection order. He was represented by a law student extern practicing under C.R.C.P. 205.7. Thereafter, McGlaughlin moved to vacate his plea and the resulting convictions, claiming that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel when he was represented only by a law student, not a licensed lawyer, at his plea hearing. The postconviction court denied McGlaughlin’s Crim. P. 35(c) motion without a hearing, concluding that the record disproved McLaughlin’s claim.

On appeal, McGlaughlin argued that his plea was constitutionally invalid under the Sixth Amendment because he was not represented by a licensed lawyer at a critical stage of his criminal case. When a criminal defendant is represented by a student attorney under C.R.C.P. 205.7, a supervising attorney must be physically present in the courtroom during all critical stages of the criminal case. If the supervising attorney is not present during a critical stage, the defendant is denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The record here did not clearly establish that the supervising attorney was present during defendant’s plea hearing.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded to the postconviction court for an evidentiary hearing and further findings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.