Smith makes three arguments in his appeal, that the trial court erred by:
- allowing Smith's trial counsel to withdraw on the sixth day of trial and
- failing to appoint substitute counsel for Smith thereafter, and
- that the private substitute counsel Smith retained was presumptively ineffective based upon the amount of time he had to review Smith's case before proceeding with the trial.
Smith does not raise the question that you mention: the law against choosing between testifying and having counsel. That question was raised by the state's attorney:
There are cases that say the [c]ourt cannot make a defendant choose
between the right to testify and the right to counsel... [T]here is a
Hobson's choice here between Mr. Smith testifying and Mr. Smith having
an attorney. And the courts have ruled at times that there can't be a
choice between those things.
Speaking of Hobson's choice:
United States ex rel. Wilcox v. Johnson, 555 F. 2d 115 - Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit 1977
the appellee here "was put to a Hobson's choice": decline to testify
and lose the opportunity of conveying his version of the facts to the
jury, or take the stand and forego his fundamental right to be
assisted by counsel. The Trial Judge thus conditioned the exercise of
Mr. Wilcox's statutory right to testify upon the waiver of rights
guaranteed by the Constitution. This was an impermissible infringement
upon the appellee's right to testify and his Sixth Amendment right to
US v. Scott, 909 F. 2d 488 - Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 1990
To advise [the defendant] that he could be precluded from testifying,
without confirmation that [the defendant] intended to commit perjury,
or could proceed pro se impermissibly forced Scott to choose between
two constitutionally protected rights.
Wilson v. State, 12 So.3d 292 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2009)
This case concerns a defendant's desire to testify in greater detail
about the incidents giving rise to the criminal charges, confronted by
his attorney's belief that more testimony was not a good idea. The
judge offered the defendant the choice of testifying further by giving
up his attorney, and representing himself. The defendant chose not to
testify. We hold that the trial court improperly forced a choice
between two constitutional rights, and reverse.
Here is a really recent case where The Connecticut Supreme Court gave defendant a new trial after his lawyer quit (went into snooze mode) when the defendant insisted on testifying.
State of Connecticut v. Maurice Francis, (SC 19305)
The record reflects that the court and defense counsel understood the
defendant to be self-represented during his testimony. Defense counsel
made it abundantly clear that they had no intention of representing
the defendant should he testify and would file a motion to withdraw if
necessary to avoid doing so. After canvassing the defendant regarding
the pitfalls of proceeding pro se, the trial court ruled that it would
have to let the defendant ‘‘self-represent . . . during this point . .
. .’’ Consistent with this ruling, the court’s docket sheet reflects
the court clerk’s notations indicating that, for purposes of the
defendant’s testimony only, the defendant was allowed to represent
himself and standby counsel was appointed. It further indicated that,
for the remainder of the trial, counsel was retained to represent the
defendant. Because of this ruling, defense counsel did not need to
file a motion to withdraw, as their temporary status as standby
counsel remedied the representation problem that they had sought to
An interesting distinction among these cases is the reason the attorney conditioned representation on withholding testimony. One reason is ethical – knowledge that the client is going to lie. The other reason is strategic; the attorney thinks the witness will hurt the case.
Edit to discuss the ethics question as it was brought up in the comments.
Comment: However the defendant did not lie, the lawyer provided no evidence the defendant did lie, and the lawyer never stated why/how/what he thought the defendant might lie about.
The lawyer did not tell the court, and could not ethically tell the court. The superior court said:
Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client's
demand that the lawyer engage in unprofessional conduct. The court
may request an explanation for the withdrawal, while the lawyer
may be bound to keep confidential the facts that would constitute
such an explanation. The lawyer's statement that professional
considerations require termination of the representation ordinarily
should be accepted as sufficient. Lawyers should be mindful of their
obligations to both clients and the court under Rules 1.6 and 3.3.
The lawyer mentioned 1.16 as the reason he needed to withdraw. It basically says you can't represent someone if the representation would be an ethics violation:
Rule 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation
(a) Except as
stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or,
where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the
representation of a client if:
(1) the representation will result in
violation of law or the Rules of Professional Conduct;
lawyer's physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's
ability to represent the client; or
(3) the lawyer is discharged.
And then Comment 3 says that if a lawyer wants to withdraw because of an ethics conflict the judge may let him go without further inquiry.
When a lawyer has been appointed to represent a client,
withdrawal ordinarily requires approval of the appointing authority.
Similarly, court approval or notice to the court is often required by
applicable law before a lawyer withdraws from pending litigation.
Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client's
demand that the lawyer engage in unprofessional conduct. The court may
request an explanation for the withdrawal, while the lawyer may be
bound to keep confidential the facts that would constitute such an
explanation. The lawyer's statement that professional considerations
require termination of the representation ordinarily should be
accepted as sufficient. Lawyers should be mindful of their obligations
to both clients and the court under Rules 1.6 and 3.3.
However, the appellate court writes that the trial court could have asked about comment 2 which says that suggestion of perjury is not enough to force withdrawal.
lawyer ordinarily must decline or withdraw from
representation if the client demands that the lawyer engage in conduct
that is illegal or violates the Rules of Professional Conduct or other
law. The lawyer is not obliged to decline or withdraw simply because
the client suggests such a course of conduct; a client may make such a
suggestion in the hope that a lawyer will not be constrained by a
But, and this is the big but - this is not enough for the appellate court to overturn the trial court.
...we may not consider the correctness of the court's ruling de novo or second guess its exercise of discretion... Rather, we are limited
to a determination of whether the court's decision was “manifestly
unsupported by reason or so arbitrary that it could not have been
the result of a reasoned decision.”
The rule violation at risk here is 3.3(a)(3):
(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly... offer evidence that the lawyer knows
to be false. If a lawyer, the lawyer's client, or a witness called by
the lawyer, has offered material evidence and the lawyer comes to know
of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures,
including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A lawyer may
refuse to offer evidence, other than the testimony of a defendant in a
criminal matter, that the lawyer reasonably believes is false.
It's comment 9 that the state wanted the trial court to consider. It seems to me that she wanted to hint to the defense attorney that he could ethically hear the testimony if he didn't know that it was false.
Although paragraph (a)(3) only prohibits a lawyer from offering
evidence the lawyer knows to be false, it permits the lawyer to refuse
to offer testimony or other proof that the lawyer reasonably believes
is false. Offering such proof may reflect adversely on the lawyer's
ability to discriminate in the quality of evidence and thus impair the
lawyer's effectiveness as an advocate. Because of the special
protections historically provided criminal defendants, however, this
Rule does not permit a lawyer to refuse to offer the testimony of such
a client where the lawyer reasonably believes but does not know that
the testimony will be false. Unless the lawyer knows the testimony
will be false, the lawyer must honor the client's decision to testify.
It seems to me that comment 8 is more helpful, but I wasn't there.
The prohibition against offering false evidence only applies
if the lawyer knows that the evidence is false. A lawyer's reasonable
belief that evidence is false does not preclude its presentation to
the trier of fact. A lawyer's knowledge that evidence is false,
however, can be inferred from the circumstances. See Rule 1.0(g).
Thus, although a lawyer should resolve doubts about the veracity of
testimony or other evidence in favor of the client, the lawyer cannot
ignore an obvious falsehood.