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Alaska Pub. Defender Agency v. Superior Court, Third Judicial District

Court of Appeals of Alaska

February 27, 2015

ALASKA PUBLIC DEFENDER AGENCY, Applicant,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT, THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT, ANCHORAGE, Respondent

Original Application for Relief from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Kevin M. Saxby, Judge. Trial Court No. 3AN-14-3122 CR.

Douglas O. Moody, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Applicant.

Dani Crosby, Dani Crosby Law Office, Inc., Anchorage, for the Respondent.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]

OPINION

ALLARD, Judge.

In this original application for relief, we are asked to interpret AS 18.85.100(a), the Alaska Public Defender Agency's " enabling" statute -- i.e., the statute that defines the Agency's authority to provide counsel to indigent litigants. The question is whether the Agency can be appointed to serve as " standby" or " advisory" counsel in criminal cases in which defendants have waived their constitutional right to counsel and chosen to represent themselves.

For the reasons explained here, we conclude that this enabling statute does not authorize the appointment of the Public Defender Agency for this purpose. We therefore vacate the superior court's order directing the Public Defender Agency to serve as standby counsel in this case.

Factual background and procedural history

The defendant in this case, Grant Matthisen, is charged with two counts of criminal non-support.[1] Although Matthisen is indigent and qualifies for the appointment of counsel at public expense, he has chosen to

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waive his constitutional right to counsel and to represent himself.

To assist Matthisen in representing himself, the superior court appointed the Alaska Public Defender Agency to " act in a consultative capacity." Specifically, the superior court ordered the Agency to provide an attorney to sit through Matthisen's trial " to provide ongoing legal advice and to ensure that [Matthisen] follows appropriate rules and makes appropriate objections and arguments."

The Public Defender Agency objected to this appointment, arguing that it exceeded the scope of representation permitted by the Agency's enabling statute.[2] The superior court disagreed, finding that the appointment was within the scope of the Agency's authority and that the ...


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