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Vermont v. Brillon

United States Supreme Court
556 U.S. 81 (2009)


Facts

On July 27, 2001, Michael Brillon (defendant) was arrested and later charged with felony domestic assault. The court assigned Richard Ammons, a public defender, as Brillon’s attorney. Ammons filed several motions for continuances that were ultimately denied. Brillon fired Ammons on February 22, 2002, and the trial court granted Ammons’ motion to withdraw. That same day, the trial judge appointed a second attorney, who withdrew immediately due to a conflict. On March 1, 2002, the court assigned Gerard Altieri as Brillon’s third attorney. Brillon moved to dismiss Altieri based on his lack of communication. Altieri also sought to withdraw as counsel on grounds that Brillon had threatened his life. The trial court granted Brillon’s motion but warned him that the grant of the motion would only extend his time in jail while waiting for trial. The trial court appointed Paul Donaldson as Brillon’s fourth attorney on the same day. Donaldson moved for additional time due to his caseload. Brillon sought to remove Donaldson for his lack of responsiveness. On November 26, 2002, Donaldson was released from the case because his contract with the Defender General’s office expired. Brillon’s fifth counsel, David Sleigh, was assigned on January 15, 2003. Sleigh requested several extensions due to his caseload. On April 10, 2003, Sleigh withdrew as counsel due to changes in his contract with the Defender General. Brillon was without counsel for the ensuing four months. Kathleen Moore was appointed as Brillon’s sixth counsel on August 1, 2003. The trial court granted both parties several extensions. On February 23, 2004, Moore sought dismissal of the case for lack of a speedy trial. The trial court denied the motion. After trial on June 14, 2004, Brillon was convicted and sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison. Brillon sought a post-trial dismissal for lack of a speedy trial. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the delay was mostly Brillon’s fault and that Brillon failed to demonstrate prejudice resulting from the delay. The Vermont Supreme Court vacated Brillon’s conviction, finding that his right to a speedy trial had been denied.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

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