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  • Writer's pictureAttorney Michael Horowitz

Attorney Horowitz Wins Appellate Reversal

On April 3, 2019, the Alaska Court of Appeals granted our client’s appeal and reversed the trial court’s dismissal of client’s petition for post-conviction relief. Client brought a claim of post-conviction relief against his conviction. However, once the trial court appointed counsel, the appointed attorney filed a “certificate of no arguable merit” and asked to be withdrawn from the case. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. In a short summary disposition, the Alaska Court of Appeals agreed with Attorney Horowitz that both the trial court and the appointed trial attorney failed to follow required procedure. Accordingly, the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of client’s case and remanded the case back to the trial court where client should get another shot at relief.

The heart of the issue on appeal was what exactly does an attorney owe his client in a post-conviction relief proceeding. In most cases, an Alaskan post-conviction relief proceeding is initiated by the client filing a “pro se” original application on their own. Under Alaska law, once counsel is appointed, a very specific rule allows the attorney to either proceed with the client’s original application or amend the application or file a certificate that client has no arguable claims. Here, the post-conviction lawyer took the last route and filed the no-merit certificate, which is similar to an Anders brief. That means the attorney essentially took a position directly contrary to his client’s and said that the client didn’t have any non-frivolous arguments to make.

On appeal, Attorney Horowitz identified at least three reasonable arguments the post-conviction attorney could have made and used those colorable claims as proof that the post-conviction attorney failed to do a sufficient review of the case. Based on Attorney Horowitz’s ability to identify those arguments, as well as his analysis about other procedural deficits, client gets to relitigate his post-conviction claims and still has a chance at reversing his conviction.


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