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ISSAQUAH LAW GROUP

Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

Court of Appeals: Div. II – Defendant Did Have a Clue As To His Guilty Plea, Despite Claim of Incompetency

State v. DeClue

Thomas DeClue pled guilty to second degree manslaughter and first degree unlawful possession of a firearm. DeClue later moved to withdraw his guilty plea because he claimed he was on medication and thus was unable to knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive his constitutional rights. I guess you could say he didn’t have DeClue as to what he was doing! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Get a clue

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and several people testified as to DeClue’s competency at the time he plead guilty. A nurse from the jail testified that DeClue had taken several medications at different times including Vicodin, BuSpar, Skelaxin, and Seroquel. I guess incarceration wasn’t too painful.

DeClue testified that the medications made him feel like a zombie and he wasn’t able to process information. Others, including inmates at the jail, also testified that DeClue was drowsy and couldn’t concentrate. However, DeClue’s attorney when he entered the plea testified that DeClue was sharp, astute, paid attention, and had no problems communicating. The judge also reviewed a videotape of the plea. The judge held that entry of the plea did not violate DeClue’s constitutional rights. DeClue appealed.

DeClue contended that since he claimed he was not competent to enter the plea, the statute required that a competency hearing was required not an evidentiary hearing. “If a defendant supports his motion to withdraw a guilty plea with substantial evidence of incompetency, the trial court must either grant the motion or hold a formal competency hearing under RCW 10.77. 060.” The important part of this rule is that the claim must be supported by “substantial evidence of incompetency.” If substantial evidence is lacking, then the motion is denied and no competency hearing is required.

DeClue’s claim that the judge made an error by having an evidentiary hearing rather than a competency hearing failed. The evidentiary hearing was held for the purpose of exploring DeClue’s claim that he was not competent. That exploration ended in a finding that there was no substantial evidence of incompetency and thus no competency hearing was necessary.

DeClue also challenged the trial court’s finding that he was competent. However, given the nurse’s testimony that DeClue didn’t appear intoxicated, DeClue’s attorney’s testimony, and the judge’s own recollection (with assistance from video) of the plea, the Court of Appeals could not find that the judge abused her discretion. Affirmed! Get a clue.

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