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United States v. Hedgepeth

December 28, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Defendant Darin Hedgepeth, an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution - Allenwood, has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (doc. 105) as well as a motion to receive, free of charge, a copy of transcripts and motions from his criminal proceedings (doc. 106). We will dismiss one of the claims in his § 2255 motion and deny the motion to receive copies of the trial transcripts and defense motions free of charge. We will, however, permit Hedgepeth to purchase copies of the trial transcripts and other in-court proceedings at a reduced cost. Finally, Hedgepeth will have forty days to obtain the documents from the Clerk's office and file an amended § 2255 motion limited to his ineffectiveness-of-counsel claim.

II. Background

In October 2003, Hedgepeth was indicted on counterfeiting and firearms charges. After three superseding indictments, a jury convicted Hedgepeth of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), possession of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844, and possession of crack cocaine while on pre-trial release in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844 and 18 U.S.C. § 3147. Hedgepeth was sentenced to 115 months' imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. United States v. Hedgepeth, 434 F.3d 609 (3d Cir. 2006).

Prior to filing his § 2255 motion, Hedgepeth sent a letter to the Clerk of Court seeking a copy of his trial transcript and filed an application to proceed without prepayment of fees. (docs. 102, 103). The Clerk informed Hedgepeth that his case was closed and that he could petition to receive the documents free of charge if he filed a habeas corpus petition. (doc. 103). Hedgepeth then filed a § 2255 motion (doc. 105) and an application to proceed without prepayment of fees (doc. 106).

Hedgepeth's § 2255 motion claims that the Court failed to appoint substitute counsel prior to trial and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. (doc. 105, p. 5). According to Hedgepeth, the Court did not substitute counsel despite his "conflicted interest" with appointed counsel as well as their irreconcilable differences and breakdown in communication. Id. at 10. Hedgepeth's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim alleges that his appointed counsel failed to properly investigate and prepare the case for trial and, at trial, counsel failed to engage in adversarial testing of the Government's witnesses. Id. at 12. Hedgepeth claims these purported deficiencies were prejudicial because they "[d]eprived the jury the opportunity to fairly and fully assess the accuracy of testimony and evidence damaging to Defendant, while breaching Defendant of opportunity to properly defend himself." Id. at 13.*fn1

III. Discussion

A. Substitution of Appointed Counsel

The decision to substitute counsel on the basis of a defendant's dissatisfaction with appointed counsel is within the sound discretion of the court. United States v. Gallop, 838 F.2d 105, 108 (4th Cir. 1988). In seeking substitute counsel, a defendant must show "good cause" for his dissatisfaction with current counsel. United States v. Goldberg, 67 F.3d 1092, 1098 (3d Cir. 1995). The Third Circuit defines good cause "as a conflict of interest, a complete breakdown of communication, or an irreconcilable conflict with the attorney." Id. The district court must be aware of the reasons underlying the defendant's request and determine whether good cause exists. Id.

We reject Hedgepeth's claim because we conclude that he failed to show "good cause" for substitution of counsel. Despite the allegation of a conflict of interest, as well as his reference to cases discussing potential problems created by an appointed counsel's conflict of interest, Hedgepeth's § 2255 motion fails to provide any factual support for his claim. Additionally, Hedgepeth's written motion seeking new counsel and his statements at an April 26, 2004, hearing show that he made no mention of any circumstances under which a conflict of interest could exist. Instead, the allegations in Hedgepeth's motion focus on appointed counsel's investigation and preparation for trial. Therefore, we reject Hedgepeth's bare allegation of a conflict of interest as a basis for his substitution of counsel claim.

Hedgepeth's allegations of irreconcilable differences and a breakdown of communication with counsel also fail to show good cause for substitution of counsel. Hedgepeth detailed his reasons for seeking substitute counsel in an April 22, 2004, motion, claiming that appointed counsel (1) "failed to file for evidence that would help my defense," (2) "flatly refus[ed] to investigate any of my request [sic] stating 'I'm your lawyer -- its [sic] gonna be done my way!,'" and (3) "has been completely innefective [sic] by means of lack of investigative effort and or commitment."

Four days later, the Court addressed Hedgepeth's motion during a bail revocation and continuance hearing. During that hearing, the Court denied Hedgepeth's motion and explained "that it's not usual for the Court to entertain these kinds of complaints in the midst of an ongoing representation." (doc. 108, p. 6). Later, the Court, in speaking with appointed counsel, stated: "[T]he usual situation is for you to file a motion if you don't think you can adequately represent [Hedgepeth] or if there's an irreconcilable conflict that's developed. Just the fact that he doesn't want to follow your advice isn't enough." Id. at 8. Appointed counsel responded: "I would agree with that, Your Honor. I think that's the state we're at. I do not think we're at a state where there is an irreconcilable conflict." Id. at 8-9.

We conclude that Hedgepeth's April 22, 2004, motion, as well as the exchange at the subsequent hearing did not show a complete breakdown of communication or an irreconcilable difference sufficient to support a finding of good cause to substitute counsel. While Hedgepeth's written motion showed his displeasure with counsel's investigation and preparation for trial, disagreement regarding legal strategy does not show good cause for substitution. United States v. Gibbs, 190 F.3d 188, 207 n.10 (3d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). Additionally, counsel's statement that an irreconcilable conflict did not yet exist, combined with his continued representation of Hedgepeth, undermines the claim that there was a breakdown in communication or an irreconcilable difference. Without a ...

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