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State v. Zachary A., 2008AP3183-CR, District III, 3/16/2010

court of appeals decision (1-judge; not for publication); Susan E. Alesia, Madison Appellate

Circuit court erred in not granting request for competency hearing, based on some jibberjabber about the PD and cost; plus circuit court wrong to limit competency hearing to those few cases where person “doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.”

(Snark: who bears costs when the court doesn’t have a clue what’s going on?) Trial counsel, it bears noting, did precisely what she was obligated to do: explain to the trial court that her client had been diagnosed with a disorder, that a prior psychological report documented his limited cognitive abilities, and that a hearing should be held at which the doctor who prepared this report would testify. It goes unmentioned by the court of appeals here, but there is a potential question as to whether counsel exceeded the boundaries laid down in State v. Jerry J. Meeks, 2003 WI 104 (“an attorney’s opinions, perceptions, and impressions of a client’s competency to proceed are protected by the attorney-client privilege,” ¶40), which arguably limits counsel to “merely” raising competency without explaining “reasons for raising the issue or the opinions, perceptions, or impressions that form the basis for his or her reason to doubt the client’s competence,” ¶46. If Meeks is read in that manner then it is unworkable, unless also read to require a competency hearing whenever requested by counsel. That is one way to read Meeks, but no appellate court has yet confronted the problem. If the present case is any indication, then counsel indeed must press for the hearing and provide the particulars, in possible contravention of Meeks.