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Constitutional Nature of Right to Appeal

State ex rel. Richard A. Ford v. Holm, 2004 WI App 22, PFR filed 3/1/04
For Ford: James R. Troupis, State Bar Pro Bono Project
For Amicus (SPD): Marla Stephens, Director; Patricia K. Flood, First Asst.SPD


¶2 A person convicted in Wisconsin of committing a crime has a constitutionally guaranteed right to appeal his or her conviction to this court. WIS. CONST. art. I, § 21(1); State v. Perry, 136 Wis. 2d 92, 98, 401 N.W.2d 748 (1987). The right to an appeal includes the right that “the appeal be a meaningful one.” Id. at 99. An indigent defendant is constitutionally entitled to the appointment of counsel at public expense for the purpose of prosecuting his or her “one and only appeal … as of right” from a criminal conviction. Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 357-58 (1963); State ex rel. Warren v. Schwarz, 219 Wis. 2d 615, 648, 579 N.W.2d 698 (1998).1 The State Public Defender (SPD) contends, and no party disputes, that criminal defendants in Wisconsin also enjoy a state constitutional right to represent themselves on appeal if they knowingly and voluntarily make that choice and are competent to do so. It cites WIS. CONST. art. I, § 21(2), as the source of this right and our opinion in Havlinka v. Blunt, Ellis, & Loewi Inc., 174 Wis. 2d 381, 394-95, 497 N.W.2d 756 (Ct. App. 1993) as supporting it.

1 The right of an indigent defendant to have counsel provided at public expense for purposes of a first appeal as of right from a state criminal conviction appears to be grounded in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than in the Sixth Amendment, which applies to “criminal prosecutions.” See Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 357-58 (1963); but see McCoy v. Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, 486 U.S. 429, 436 (1988) (“If a convicted defendant elects to appeal, he retains the Sixth Amendment right to representation by competent counsel ….”).

The court goes on to provide a useful summary of appointed counsel’s duties, which should be reviewed closely, ¶¶3-5.

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