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Criminal Practice – Simple Assault – Self-Representation – Not Raised – Restrictions

By: Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//June 23, 2017

Criminal Practice – Simple Assault – Self-Representation – Not Raised – Restrictions

By: Teresa Bruno, Opinions Editor//June 23, 2017

City of Columbia v. Assa’ad-Faltas (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-035-17, 18 pp.) (Per Curiam) Appealed from Richland County Circuit Court (Alison Renee Lee, J.) S.C. S.Ct.

Holding: Although appellant raised a passing complaint about her trial counsel during a lengthy diatribe at a scheduling hearing six weeks prior to her municipal-court trial for simple assault, the issue was not mentioned again during subsequent pretrial hearings or during trial itself, nor did appellant request that the municipal court rule on this specific issue, despite ample opportunity to personally raise any point of law or fact she wanted the municipal court to consider. We cannot say the municipal court erred in failing to construe appellant’s “musings” as a waiver of the right to counsel.

We affirm appellant’s conviction of simple assault and her sentence therefor.

Even had the issue been unequivocally and timely raised to the municipal court, the municipal court would have been justified in insisting that appellant proceed with the assistance of counsel. Appellant’s long history of abusing the judicial process, coupled with her conduct in this case in abusing and harassing courts and court officers; disrupting, delaying, and prolonging proceedings; and persistently disregarding and circumventing the orders of this court aimed at curbing her improper conduct all underscore the court’s interest in preventing appellant’s further manipulation of the system and in ensuring the integrity and efficiency of the trial.

Indeed, the record as a whole indicates the underlying reason appellant was dissatisfied with counsel was her frustration that counsel refused to give her control in how her proceedings were handled, refused to file frivolous subpoenas and motions, and refused to proffer irrelevant materials as evidentiary exhibits. It is apparent that appellant sought to proceed pro se only to bombard the courts with irrelevant and meritless arguments and factual assertions (many of which she was able to raise to the municipal court herself).

We find that appellant asserts a violation of her right to self-representation for manipulative reasons, and we therefore affirm as to this issue.

Ironically, appellant did engage in self-representation throughout the trial in municipal court.

Appellant also contends that this court’s orders that prospectively place restrictions on her ability to represent herself in a pro se capacity violate her Sixth Amendment right to self-representation, and therefore, the circuit court committed reversible error in relying upon them. We disagree.

The court’s current order, though extreme, is nevertheless proportionate to appellant’s extreme and escalating behavior in harassing and burdening courts and court staff and in wasting judicial resources. However, as a procedural matter, this case – an appeal from a municipal court conviction – is not the proper vehicle through which appellant may challenge the constitutionality of the court’s orders.



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