OCTOBER TERM, 1994
on motion of thomas n. cochran for leave to withdraw as counsel for petitioner
No. ---. Decided October 31, 1994
Having determined that no meritorious grounds existed for an appeal of Anthony Austin's criminal conviction, Thomas Cochran, his appointed counsel, filed a brief in the Fourth Circuit raising only the issue of sentence computation. After the Fourth Circuit affirmed Austin's conviction and sentence, Cochran informed him of his right to petition for certiorari, but applied to this Court for leave to withdraw as counsel before the deadline for filing the petition.
Held: Cochran's application is granted. Under a plan adopted pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act (Act), the Fourth Circuit has a Rule governing the duration of service by appointed counsel. Cochran is correct that the Fourth Circuit Rule imposes a mandatory duty to file a petition even if the legal arguments are frivolous and, thus, conflicts with this Court's Rule 42.2, which allows an award of damages or costs against him for filing such a petition. Nothing in the Act compels counsel to file papers in contravention of this Court's Rules against frivolous filings. If necessary, the Circuits' Criminal Justice Plans should be revised to allow a lawyer to be relieved of the duty to file a petition for certiorari that would present only frivolous claims. The Act does not compel a particular approach. However, from an administrative point of view, it is preferable for a plan to require that the court of appeals approve a withdrawal, because attorneys are more likely to avail themselves of this avenue for relief if they have the court's endorsement to back up their own judgment.
Anthony Austin pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and was sentenced to 151 months' imprisonment. On appeal to the Fourth Circuit, Thomas Cochran, who had been appointed as Austin's counsel pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, 18 U. S. C. § 3006A, submitted a brief in accordance with Anders v. California, 386 U. S. 738 (1967). That brief raised the issue of
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