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State v. Garaygordobil

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 23, 1961

STATE of Arizona, Appellee,
v.
Eugene GARAYGORDOBIL, Appellant.

Page 754

[89 Ariz. 162] James F. Haythornewhite and William E. Hildebrandt, Nogales, for appellant.

Wade Church, former Atty. Gen., George W. Oglesby, former Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert W. Pickrell, present Atty. Gen., and James D. Hathaway, County Atty. of Santa Cruz County, Nogales, for appellee.

BERNSTEIN, Vice Chief Justice.

Eugene Garaygordobil (hereinafter called 'defendant') was convicted under A.R.S. § 35-301 upon charges of wrongfully appropriating from the Santa Cruz County treasury an amount of public money in excess of $50,000 from 1951 through 1959, and under A.R.S. § 38-421 for falsifying during that period the public records of the treasurer's office. He now appeals from this judgment and the order of the trial court denying his motion for new trial.

[89 Ariz. 163] The defendant has submitted six assignments of error which we shall discuss as essentially three. The defendant first assigns as error that the ruling of the trial court denying his motion to join Mr. Nasib Karam, the Nogales city attorney, as defense counsel, violated the constitutional rights of the defendant to be represented by counsel of his own choosing.

With respect to this assignment of error the facts appear as follows: The defendant on September 16, 1959, was arrested in California, waived extradition and returned to Arizona. Upon his return, he appeared in the Justice Court, Number 1 Precinct of Santa Cruz County which had issued the warrant for his arrest, together with Mr. Nasib Karam, who the defendant had for many years retained as his family counsel, and was released by the magistrate upon his own recognizance. The county attorney then filed an entry of nolle prosequi (which we assume meant 'dismissing the action') in the justice court and refiled the charges in the Nogales City Police Court, in which court the preliminary examination was held and the defendant bound over for trial.

Mr. Karam temporarily withdrew from the case prior to the defendant's preliminary examination before the city magistrate and the counsel who have prosecuted this appeal were retained by the defendant. Prior to the commencement of the trial in the Superior Court, Mr. Karam considered

Page 755

the conflict of interests problem that might arise if he attempted to represent the defendant during the trial. He discussed the matter with other attorneys in the area, informed the mayor and the majority of the City Council of Nogales and sought an opinion from the State Bar of Arizona. After receiving the opinion from the State Bar, [1] , Mr. Karam decided that he could represent the defendant at the trial because: (1) The mayor and city council had given their permission for him to defend the defendant; (2) during the fifteen years he served as city attorney, he appeared only five times to prosecute persons charged with violating a city ordinance or statute; (3) during his term as city attorney, he had many times represented defendants charged in criminal actions, and accepted appointments to represent indigent defendants; and (4) he concluded that representing the [89 Ariz. 164] defendant would not conflict with his duties as city attorney, and that he had not become identified in the public mind as a prosecutor.

The county attorney objected to the defendant's motion to join Mr. Karam as defense counsel and the trial court upheld the objection on the ground that there might be a conflict of interest at some future time.

The Consitution, Art. 2, § 24, A.R.S., and the Criminal Code, A.R.S. § 13-161, both accord a defendant in a criminal action the right to have counsel. We have also held that 'representation by one's duly constituted attorney is fundamental to our system of administration of justice.' Arizona State Dept. of Public Welfare v. Barlow, 80 Ariz. 249, 252, 296 P.2d 298, 300. And even though defendant may have been defended by other counsel does not deny his right to have counsel of his own choosing and as many as he deems proper to employ to defend him. Jackson v. State, 55 Tex.Cr.R. 79, 115 S.W. 262.

We therefore come to the question of whether it was proper for the trial court to deny the defendant the counsel of his choice on the ground of conflict of interests. It seems established that the only ones entitled to object to such representation on the ground of conflicting interests is one who holds the relation of client to an attorney who undertakes to represent conflicting interests. Riley v. Bradley, 252 Ala. 282, 41 So.2d 641; 7 C.J.S. Attorney and Client § 47, p. 827, note 20. In the present case, the city and the defendant were the only ones who could be said to hold such a relationship to Mr. Karam, and they city had given its permission for him to represent the defendant. There was also no evidence presented the Mr. Karam had become identified in the public mind as a prosecutor for the City of Nogales. Certainly the county has no standing to object on the conflict of interest ground since it did not hold an attorney-client relationship with Mr. Karam and thus could not have been prejudiced by his presence at the defense counsel table.

The mere possibility of a future conflict of interests developing by an attorney representing different interests is not sufficient to disqualify him. In re Estate of Dayton, 246 Iowa 1209, 71 N.W.2d 429, 434; 7 C.J.S. Attorney and Client § 47, p. 825. It was therefore error for the trial court to deny defendant's motion to join Mr. Nasib Karam as defense counsel.

The defendant next contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying

Page 756

the defendant's motion for a new trial on the grounds of misconduct and prejudice of juror Powell. He alleges that juror Powell, during the course of the trial: declared a prejudice against Mexicans; (2) talked and shook hands with several witnesses[89 Ariz. 165] for the State; (3) questioned the defendant in court on irrelevant and immaterial details of defendant's testimony; (4) turned his back towards the witness stand during the testimony of nine character witnesses presented by the defense; and (5) told his cousin and the jury that he thought the defendant was guilty. The record reveals that the trial court went to great lengths in determining whether such accusations were true. The court held several conferences in chambers and heard testimony from both sides concerning juror ...


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