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Falcone v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 2, 2010

John FALCONE, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 470

Margi A. Mock, Assistant Public Defender, Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Angela D. Kemp, Assistant District Attorney, and Daniel S. Sullivan, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: COATS, Chief Judge, and MANNHEIMER and BOLGER, Judges.

OPINION

BOLGER, Judge.

John Falcone repeatedly presented pleadings and courtroom objections based on his persistent belief that the Uniform Commercial Code and admiralty jurisdiction would provide a defense to the charges he faced at his criminal trial. Superior Court Judge Philip M. Pallenberg eventually concluded that Falcone could not present his case in a rational and coherent manner, based on his irrational pleadings and objections, his obstreperous courtroom conduct, and a pretrial competency evaluation. We conclude that under these circumstances, the trial judge had the discretion to deny Falcone's self-representation request.

Background

On the morning of February 8, 2008, John Falcone spent several hours drinking at the Rendezvous Bar in Juneau, Alaska. After Falcone became belligerent towards some of the patrons, the bartender asked him to leave. Falcone became angry and began throwing bar stools and damaging other items around the bar. Falcone was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct,[1] resisting arrest,[2] fourth-degree criminal mischief,[3] and being drunk on licensed premises.[4]

During Falcone's arraignment on the misdemeanor charges, District Court Judge Keith B. Levy noted that he had previously denied Falcone's request to represent himself in other proceedings, and that " unless something dramatic has changed, [he] would be inclined to decline [the request] again." When Judge Levy appointed the public defender to represent Falcone, the defendant objected:

I will not talk with them. Your Honor, the Constitution of the United States grants this court two criminal jurisdictions. One is the admiralty jurisdiction that constitutes the condition of a contract, the other is a common law jurisdiction which requires an injured party.

Falcone was later indicted for criminal mischief in the third degree,[5] and Judge Pallenberg held a felony arraignment. When the judge asked whether Falcone received a copy of the indictment, Falcone began arguing his rights under the Uniform Commercial Code and asserted that he would not be compelled to enter into any contract, including " appointment of attorney contracts."

Throughout the arraignment, Falcone continued to raise arguments under the Uniform Commercial Code and to make assertions about criminal procedure which indicated that he did not understand the nature of the proceeding. For example, Falcone told the judge: " [S]o, basically, if we go to trial, I'm going to demand that the jury bring charges against the bartender and possibly the owner of the bar as well." Following the felony arraignment, Falcone filed a series of motions arguing his right to self-representation, citing the Uniform Commercial Code and the Bible-one of the motions called for a " jury trial for the right to self representation, d[ue] to the belief in a supreme being."

Judge Pallenberg ordered a competency evaluation and scheduled a competency hearing for later in the month. The Alaska Psychiatric Institute evaluation concluded that Falcone was competent to stand trial and to represent himself. The ...


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