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Jackson v. Bartow

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 23, 2019

Andrew L. Jackson, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Byran Bartow, Respondent-Appellee.

          Submitted July 9, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 17-CV-17 - Nancy Joseph, Magistrate Judge.

          Before Kanne, Hamilton, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         A Wisconsin trial court denied Andrew L. Jackson's request to represent himself at trial, and Jackson later pleaded guilty. He seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2554, arguing that Wisconsin unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent involving the Sixth Amendment right for competent defendants to represent themselves at trial. The district court agreed with Jackson that the Wisconsin trial court erred in ruling that he could not represent himself at trial, but it nonetheless denied his petition. It correctly concluded that under Gomez v. Berge, 434 F.3d 940 (7th Cir. 2006), Jackson waived his right to challenge that earlier ruling when he later entered an unconditional, knowing, and voluntary guilty plea. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Jackson faced serious charges in Wisconsin state court, and the court appointed a lawyer for him. Prosecutors accused him of throwing boiling oil at his wife, knifing her in front of their children, and later, threatening her from prison. At a hearing in January 2012, Jackson asked the judge to remove his counsel. He complained that counsel had withheld discovery and met with him too late in the proceedings to adequately discuss strategy. The court granted the motion. At the same time, the court barred Jackson from communicating with anyone but his attorney of record because of his threatening phone calls to his wife.

         After the court appointed another lawyer, that lawyer reported that Jackson also asked him to withdraw. Jackson complained that he had not yet received some discovery materials and that counsel had no faith in him. The court ruled that these reasons were inadequate and refused to appoint a third lawyer. The judge allowed Jackson to seek a private attorney so long as he adhered to the restrictions on his outside communications.

         Jackson told the trial judge that he wanted to represent himself, but the judge denied that request. He said that he would consider Jackson's request only if Jackson was "capable of and ready and prepared" to represent himself, but it was "not a given [he] could do it." Months later, the court returned to Jackson's request. It stressed the complexity of the case, explaining that it would not trust someone with under five years of defense experience to represent Jackson and warning that Jackson "can't do this." Jackson still insisted that he could. The court ultimately denied Jackson's request. It reasoned that Jackson was "clearly incompetent ... to present a case of this complexity" and lacked "the ability [...], the training, the knowledge, and the time to properly prepare it."

         Jackson pleaded guilty a few days later to two counts of felony intimidation of a witness, one count of first-degree reckless injury, and one count of aggravated battery. He received a prison sentence of 20 years. Jackson filed a postconviction petition in Wisconsin, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea on the ground that he was denied his right to self-representation at trial. The post-conviction court denied his motion. Jackson appealed, but the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that Jackson "did not sufficiently understand the complexity of his trial or the law concerning the charges against him." He petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but it denied review.

         Jackson's next step was a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In it, he argues that Wisconsin unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent by affirming the denial of his request to represent himself at trial. (He does not claim that he had a right to self-representation at his guilty plea, or that, because unwanted counsel represented him at his guilty plea, his plea was not knowing and voluntary.) He stresses that, because he was competent to plead guilty, he was competent to represent himself at trial.

         Presiding by consent, a magistrate judge denied the petition. She explained that, even though the Wisconsin appeals court had unreasonably applied Supreme Court precedent on the Sixth Amendment right to self-representation at trial, Jackson waived the error by validly pleading guilty. Under Gomez v. Berge, 434 F.3d 940 (7th Cir. 2006), his valid guilty plea waived any defects in the proceedings before the plea, including any Sixth Amendment violation.

         II. Analysis

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act governs our review of Jackson's petition. As relevant here, the Act allows habeas relief only if the decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the last state court to address Jackson's claim, was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Echoing the district court, Jackson argues that, by refusing to let him represent himself at trial, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals unreasonably applied Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). In Faretta, the Supreme ...


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