Case Caption: Richie Fontaine v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2013-0062Date: 10/31/2013Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

Considering a "Motion for Reconsideration" filed by an attorney in response to an order issued by the Chief Justice of this Court denying a motion filed by the Office of the Territorial Public Defender seeking to set aside a prior order appointing that Office to represent a criminal defendant in his appeal of multiple convictions including voluntary manslaughter, which is construed as a motion for review by the entire Court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 21(c), the request for such review is granted, but the motion to set aside the appointment is denied. Applying the rule of the last antecedent in construing the language of 5 V.I.C. § 3524, good reason exists to limit the Office of the Territorial Public Defender's authority to decline representation solely to those “other remedies before or after conviction.” Therefore, under this statute, the Office lacks the discretion to simply decline to represent a defendant at trial or on direct appeal. The arguments concerning excessive public defender caseloads, which the moving attorney contends prevent him from adequately handling representation of the defendant in the instant case, are not appropriate for the Court's consideration, because the Legislature-not the Court-controls and administers the Office of the Territorial Public Defender through the Public Defender Administration Board, which specifically possesses the authority to, inter alia, promulgate rules and regulations governing employees' rights and relations under 5 V.I.C. § 3520(b). No evidence indicates that requiring the Office of the Territorial Public Defender to undertake this representation would result in the defendant receiving ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal, and no valid basis is found to allow the Office to withdraw. Accordingly, the Office of the Territorial Public Defender is directed to continue its representation of the defendant on appeal.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion