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Foondle v. O'Brien

Supreme Court of Alaska

April 3, 2015

WILLIAM M. FOONDLE, Appellant,
v.
ANGELA M. O'BRIEN, DANIEL B. LORD, JOE S. MONTAGUE, and QUINLAN G. STEINER, Executive Director of the Alaska Public Defende Agency, Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Kenai, Anna Moran, Judge. Superior Court No. 3KN-11-00842 CI.

William M. Foondle, Appellant, Minot, North Dakota, Pro se.

Ali Moser Rahoi, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellees.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 971

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

William Foondle appeals the superior court's dismissal of his claims for legal malpractice against the public defenders who represented him in a criminal case. In dismissing Foondle's malpractice claims, the superior court relied on the public policy principle that precludes criminally convicted plaintiffs from civil recovery based on the alleged negligence of their former defense counsel. We hold that the superior court's legal analysis was correct, and we affirm the judgment on that basis. We reject, as unsupported, Foondle's argument that the dismissal violated his rights to due process and access to the courts. Finally, we affirm the award of attorney's fees to the public defenders because they prevailed on the merits of Foondle's claims.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Criminal Proceedings And Post-Conviction Relief

A grand jury indicted William Foondle for felony driving under the influence (DUI) in 2007. The DUI charge was a felony because Foondle had been convicted of DUI twice in the preceding ten years: once earlier in 2007 and once in North Dakota in 1999.[1] Assistant public defenders Angela O'Brien and Daniel Lord were assigned to defend Foondle.

Foondle testified during his jury trial that the North Dakota DUI conviction resulted

Page 972

from a mistake; he explained that after he signed a plea of guilty to driving with a suspended license, the prosecuting attorney unilaterally changed the charge to DUI without Foondle's consent, then filed the altered plea with the court. Foondle testified that the North Dakota DUI remained on his record because he had been unsuccessful in his attempts to withdraw or appeal it. But the ...


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