Thursday, October 17, 2013
C.A., in Unusual Move, Boots Retained Lawyer From Case
Panel Declines to Dismiss Appeal, Says Client Should Not Suffer for Attorney’s ‘Ineptitude’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday ordered a Ventura lawyer off an appeal he was retained to bring.
In a per curiam opinion, Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert and Justices Kenneth Yegan and Steven Perren of Div. Six, acknowledged that the action was unusual. But they said that Steve Pell had been given four chances to file a proper brief, had muffed all four, and had rendered ineffective assistance to his client.
The court rejected the attorney general’s motion to have the brief stricken or the appeal be deemed abandoned. “We do not punish appellant for the ineptitude of his counsel,” the justices wrote.
Pell did not return a METNEWS phone call seeking comment.
The defendant, Jeffrey Troy Freeman, is serving 15 years to life in prison, plus a consecutive 18-year term.
The court explained that the first two briefs filed by Pell were rejected, on the attorney general’s motion, “because they did not set forth comprehensible statements of the facts, issues presented, and the applicable law.” The attorney general did not object to the third brief, the justices noted, but the court deemed it inadequate after oral argument and vacated the submission of the case on its own motion.
“We also advised counsel that failure to follow the Rules concerning briefing could result in a variety of sanctions against him, including removal as attorney of record,” the court wrote. “Our admonition went unheeded.”
The court then asked the clerk to send Pell an exemplar brief. But the fourth try was little better, the justices said. Under the circumstances, they said, they were left with little choice but to remove Pell on their own motion.
The California Appellate Project was asked to contact Freeman and advise him of the court’s decision and of his right to seek appointed counsel if indigent.
State Bar records show that Pell was admitted in 1976 and has no history of discipline. The court ordered that a copy of its opinion be sent to the State Bar.
The case is People v. Freeman, 13 S.O.S. 5287.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company