Friday, March 20, 2009

Not an Abuse of Discretion to Deny Request for Adjournment

In People v. James Comfort, the Fourth Department affirmed the defendant's conviction and rejected his claim that he was denied due process and his right to a fair trial following the trial court's repeated denial of requests for adjournments. The Fourth Department noted that:
"The court granted defendant's "demand[]" for a new attorney approximately two weeks before trial was scheduled to commence, and defense counsel accepted the assignment with knowledge of the time constraints. We thus conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant the requested adjournments (see People v Arroyave, 49 NY2d 264, 272; People v Povio, 284 AD2d 1011, lv denied 96 NY2d 923)."
The court's decision raises an interesting (and possibly leave-worthy) issue of whether the Fourth Department can properly analyze such a request, couched in due process terms, under the "abuse of discretion" standard. In People v. Foy (32 NY 2d 473 [1973]), the Court of Appeals stated that
“recent decisions of this Court reflect a more liberal policy in favor of granting a short adjournment... when the delay is requested in order to insure [sic] a fundamental right”.
There appears to be some dispute, even in other departments, over how or when this limitation on typically broad judicial discretion should apply.