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United States v. Cavell

decided: December 7, 1971.


Van Dusen, Aldisert and Gibbons, Circuit Judges. Gibbons, Circuit Judge (dissenting).

Author: Van Dusen


VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a district court order denying, after oral argument, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by relator, who had been convicted by a state court jury in June 1966 of larceny of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner, larceny of a license plate, and larceny of gasoline on or about July 31, 1965. See United States ex rel. Kachinski v. Cavell, 311 F. Supp. 827 (M.D.Pa.1969).

James Piazza had entered pleas of guilty in the spring of 1965 to three indictments charging him with unrelated offenses,*fn1 at which time he had been represented by the same attorney who represented relator in the above-described state criminal court proceedings. On August 6, 1965, he received an 18-month sentence from which he was paroled in December 1965.*fn2

At relator's first trial in February 1966, which was terminated due to the inability of the jury to reach a verdict, Piazza repudiated a statement that he had given to the police that relator had been the driver of the vehicle stolen on July 31, 1965, and committed at that time the other crimes described above. At his second trial in June 1966, Piazza testified that he had witnessed relator driving the car which had been stolen on July 31, 1965, and that relator had admitted, in conversation with Piazza, to stealing the car.

Relator contends that, under the above circumstances, a conflict of interest on the part of his attorney existed at the time of his trial which denied him the effective assistance of counsel, even though the representation of Piazza was in a prior, unrelated case. For the following reasons, we have concluded that the record does not show any conflict of interest existing at the time of relator's trials in 1966 which denied relator the effective assistance of counsel required by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, see Walker v. United States, 422 F.2d 374 (3d Cir. 1970); United States ex rel. Small v. Rundle, 442 F.2d 235 (3d Cir. 1971), making clear that relator has the burden of showing an actual conflict of interest:*fn3

A. Relator's attorney represented Piazza for an unrelated offense at a different term of court and there is nothing to show that the relationship continued after the sentencing proceeding in August 1965.*fn4 Although the Federal and Pennsylvania precedents do not make clear the responsibility of a defense attorney after his client has been sentenced and later placed on parole (in this case after December 1965), the A.B.A. Standards on The Prosecution and Defense Function provide (§ 8.5) that ". . . appellate counsel is not obliged to represent the defendant in a post-conviction proceeding unless he has agreed to do so." Also, the Illinois Supreme Court stated the rule as follows in People v. Wos, 395 Ill. 172, 69 N.E.2d 858, 861 (1946):

"The authorities support the proposition that an attorney's relation to his client ceases upon the rendition of judgment and satisfaction thereof, unless there are special arrangements or circumstances showing a continuation of the relationship. In 6 C.J., page 672, § 184, 7 C.J.S. Attorney and Client § 108, it is said: 'In the absence of disturbing events, the employment of an attorney continues as long as the suit or business upon which he is engaged is pending, and ordinarily comes to an end with the completion of the special task for which the attorney was employed. It is always a presumption that an attorney is employed to conduct the litigation to judgment, and no further; the relation of attorney and client and the general powers of the attorney cease upon the rendition and entering of the judgment.'

"The presumption in this case is that the relationship of attorney and client terminated when defendant was committed to the penitentiary and notice to him would not be binding on the defendant."

Similarly, in Flores v. State, 79 N.M. 47, 439 P.2d 565 (1968), the court said at page 567:

"Generally, the attorney-client relationship ceases when the contemplated legal service has been performed."

It may well be that the attorney-client relationship is recreated if facts which may constitute a violation of parole take place, but there is no evidence of such a situation in this record.*fn5

B. Since Piazza was not sentenced and placed on parole until after the events of July 31, 1965, any participation by him in those events could not have been a violation of his parole status existing at the time of the 1966 trials. See 61 P.S. §§ 331.21 and 314; Commonwealth ex rel. Wright v. Maroney, 201 Pa.Super. 118, 191 A.2d 866 (1963); ...

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