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Geatches v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

December 15, 2016

MICHAEL LEE GEATCHES APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         PRO SE MOTION REQUESTING FILE FROM DAVID DUNAGIN AND PRO SE MOTION REQUESTING FILE FROM DAVID MOORE AND DALE ARNOLD [CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NO. 17CR-14-483] HONORABLE GARY R. COTTRELL, JUDGE

         RESPONSES ORDERED.

          HOWARD W. BRILL, Chief Justice

         On May 11, 2015, appellant Michael Lee Geatches pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to 144 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction. On March 9, 2016, Geatches filed an untimely petition for postconviction relief under Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1 (2015). In a March 15, 2016 order, the circuit court denied Geatches's postconviction petition on the ground that it was untimely, and Geatches lodged an appeal in this court. Now before us are his pro se motion requesting the file generated by his trial counsel, David Dunagin, and a second pro se motion requesting files generated by counsel, David Moore and Dale Arnold.

         Geatches filed a motion on May 12, 2016, requesting photocopies of "the entirety of his file that is in the possession of David Dunnagin [sic], att[orney] at law." He states that "Petitioner has requested, by U.S. mail, on 3 occasions a copy of petitioner's file. As of May 9, 2016[, ] no response has been received." The certificate of service attached to the motion indicates Dunagin was served with the motion by U.S. Mail.

         Geatches also filed a motion on May 20, 2016, in which he sought a copy of his file from counsel, David Moore and Dale Arnold, who Geatches alleged represented him in matters involving the Arkansas Department of Human Services.[1] Geatches requests the "entirety of his file with both attorneys [sic] as they are directly related to petitioner's criminal case and information is needed for said case." The certificate of service indicates that both Moore and Arnold were served with the motion. Both of Geatches's motions cited In re Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Criminal Practice - Arkansas Rule of Appellate Procedure-Criminal 19, 2016 Ark. 145 (per curiam), Rule 1.16(d) of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct, and Travis v. Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, 2009 Ark. 188, 306 S.W.3d 3.

Rule 19 of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure-Criminal states,
(a) A convicted offender who seeks, at public expense, a copy of an appellate brief, the trial record, or a transcript must file a motion in the Supreme Court stating that he or she has requested the documents from his or her counsel and that counsel did not provide the documents. In addition, if the moving party seeks a photocopy (as opposed to a disk or other electronic medium), he or she must demonstrate some compelling need for the brief, record, or transcript.
(b) A copy of the motion shall be served on counsel who prepared or filed the documents. Within 20 days of such service, counsel shall file a response. If the requested documents were not provided to the client, the response shall either commit to provide the requested documents or provide good cause why counsel will not provide the documents.

Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 19(a)-(b).

         Rule 19 became effective March 31, 2016, and was promulgated to address a recurrent issue faced by the appellate courts: convicted offenders request that the appellate courts provide at public expense a copy of the brief or appellate record that had been previously filed. See In re Ark. Sup. Ct. Comm. on Crim. Practice - Ark. R. of App. P. Crim.- 19, 2016 Ark. 145 (per curiam); see, e.g., Khabir v. State, 2014 Ark. 369, 439 S.W.3d 679 (per curiam); Mendiola v. State, 2013 Ark. 92 (per curiam).

         The scope of Rule 19 is limited. Based on the reporter's notes, the intent of Rule 19 is to make clear that the party is to first look to his or her former attorney for those materials because counsel may already possess the requested documents. "Attorneys are the appropriate first stop for copies . . . ." Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 19 rptrs. nn. (2016 Amendments). In many cases those documents have already been paid for either by the client or by the State if the party is indigent.[2]

         Rule 19(b) does not make the requirement of counsel's response to the motion contingent on counsel's determination as to whether the motion has merit but instead makes counsel's response mandatory. Within twenty days of service of the Rule 19 motion, counsel shall file a response. See Ark. R. App. P.-Crim. 19(b). "If the requested documents were not provided to the client, the response shall either commit to provide the requested documents or provide good cause why counsel will not provide the documents." Id.

         If the attorney does not commit to provide the documents, the convicted offender may request, at public expense, a copy of an "appellate brief, the trial record, or a transcript[.]" For the convicted offender to obtain copies at public ...


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