Judge Philip Kirk told Rory Kuenzi that he will have to continue using his public defenders.
Kuenzi appeared in court Tuesday, Oct. 25, after his attorneys filed a motion to withdraw as his counsel.
Kuenzi is scheduled for a jury trial to begin Nov. 12.
He was charged Nov. 11, 2009, with felony hit-and-run resulting in death and homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle in the death of Kevin McCoy six years ago.
Kuenzi’s court-appointed public defenders, Troy Nielsen and David Dickmann, filed a motion to withdraw as his counsel Monday, Oct. 25.
In their motion, the attorneys said Kuenzi had fired them on Oct. 22.
“Mr. Kuenzi feels he has lost confidence in the ability of his defense counsel,” according to the motion.
The motion noted that Kuenzi is “seeking to secure a private attorney who can be prepared for trial relatively soon.”
At Tuesday’s motion hearing, Kuenzi said his public defenders seemed overworked.
“They haven’t had a whole lot of time to go through my case to the degree I thought they should be able to,” Kuenzi told the judge.
Nielsen told Kirk that while this may not be the best time to change his defense, he noted that it would be less convenient in the future.
On Oct. 14, Nielsen asked Kirk to delay the trial after Kuenzi refused a plea deal. Kirk denied the motion to delay the trial on the grounds that the case was already nearly six years old and needed to be resolved.
Special prosecutors with the Department of Justice (DOJ) made a similar argument in their brief to deny the attorneys’ motion to withdraw as counsel.
Quoting a state Supreme Court case, they wrote, “Defendants in criminal cases often as a defense technique attempt to secure last-minute substitution of counsel to delay the trial and the practice has plagued the courts in Milwaukee County. If such practice is recognized and allowed to continue, it will seriously interfere with the administration of criminal justice and the orderly and efficient scheduling and trying of cases.”
The DOJ brief noted that a defendant’s right to choice of counsel does not extend to court-appointed attorneys unless the defendant can provide evidence of conflict of interest or lack of communication.
The victims of a crime also have the right to a “speedy disposition of the case,” the brief argued.