from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul Scott and
Karen A. Romano, Judges.
defendant challenges his convictions for robbery in the first
degree and theft in the first and third degrees.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
district court convicted Saivon McGruder of robbery in the
first degree and theft in the first and third degrees. The
district court sentenced McGruder to concurrent terms of
incarceration for each offense. McGruder challenges these
convictions on appeal, contending the district court erred in
denying his motion for substitute counsel and his convictions
must be vacated as a result.
court reviews the district court's ruling on a motion for
substitute counsel for an abuse of discretion. See State
v. Lopez, 633 N.W.2d 774, 778 (Iowa 2001). This court
will find an abuse of discretion only where "the
[district] court exercised [its] discretion on grounds or for
reasons clearly untenable or to an extent clearly
unreasonable." Id. (quoting State v.
Maghee, 573 N.W.2d 1, 5 (Iowa 1997)).
criminal defendant has the right to the assistance of
"counsel at all critical stages of a criminal
proceeding." State v. Boggs, 741 N.W.2d 492,
506 (Iowa 2007) (altered for readability). The right to the
assistance of counsel does not encompass the absolute right
to the assistance of particular counsel. See State
v. Kirchner, 600 N.W.2d 330, 333 (Iowa Ct. App.
1999). In the case of appointed counsel,
[t]he grounds to justify the appointment of substitute
counsel include a conflict of interest, irreconcilable
conflict, or a complete breakdown in communication between
the defendant and counsel. The court must balance the
defendant's right to counsel of his choice and the
public's interest in the prompt and efficient
administration of justice. The court has a "duty of
inquiry" when it receives a request from a defendant for
substitute counsel on account of an alleged breakdown in
communication. The defendant must show the grounds to justify
substitute counsel and the court has considerable discretion
whether to grant substitute counsel.
State v. Mott, 759 N.W.2d 140, 148-49 (Iowa Ct. App.
2008) (citations omitted). The district court's
"duty of inquiry" is satisfied when it, after being
"apprised of a potential breakdown in communication,
personally ask[s] the defendant at a hearing to explain the
nature of the communication problem." State v.
Tejeda, 677 N.W.2d 744, 751 (Iowa 2004).
motion at issue was submitted to the district court on the
Friday before the scheduled trial on the robbery charge. On
that day, McGruder's appointed counsel sought to withdraw
from the representation at McGruder's behest. The
district court inquired further. McGruder stated he sought
new counsel because he believed his attorney had not provided
him with enough help, had not kept him informed of the status
of the proceedings, and had not given him certain documents,
including police reports and deposition transcripts. Upon
further inquiry from the district court, counsel stated the
documents had been hand-delivered to McGruder at the jail.
Counsel's statements were based upon an office log
showing the dates her law firm delivered the documents to
McGruder. The district court inquired of McGruder whether his
apprehension would be alleviated if he were given an
opportunity to review the depositions before trial, to which
McGruder responded in the affirmative. The district court
ordered a recess. During the recess copies of the deposition
transcripts were made and delivered to McGruder for him to
review with counsel prior to trial. After the recess,
McGruder stated he still wished to be represented by a
different attorney. The district court denied the motion. In
support of the denial, the district court noted the matter
had been pending for some time, there was a codefendant
prepared for trial, McGruder's counsel had conducted
significant discovery and was prepared for trial, and the
district court's knowledge that McGruder's counsel
was a good and experienced defense attorney. The district
court also found McGruder sought new counsel as a delay
robbery charge proceeded to trial with appointed counsel, and
the jury found McGruder guilty. At the time of sentencing on
the robbery charge, as part of a comprehensive plea agreement
to resolve other charges in pending cases, McGruder pleaded
guilty to and was convicted of theft in the first and third
first address McGruder's challenge to his convictions for
theft in the first and the third degree. McGruder's
challenge to the convictions is without merit. The
convictions were entered pursuant to a comprehensive plea
agreement. During the plea colloquy, the district court
explicitly asked McGruder whether he was satisfied with the
performance of his counsel, and McGruder stated he was.
McGruder was advised of his right to file a motion in arrest
of judgment to challenge the guilty pleas, and he waived the
right. "[T]he denial of a motion for substitute counsel
is waived by a guilty plea, where the guilty plea explicitly
confirmed satisfaction with plea counsel." State v.
Daye, No. 15-1645, 2016 WL 5408112, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App.
Sept. 28, 2016); accord State v. McCaleb, No.
15-2215, 2016 WL 4384412, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2016)
("By freely and voluntarily pleading guilty to the above
charges, during which McCaleb ...