FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE Nos. 16-CR-093520 16-CR-093559
16-CR-09383116-CR-093558 16-CR-093557 16-CR-093675
APPEARANCES: JACK W. BRADLEY and MICHAEL E. STEPANIK,
Attorney at Law, for Appellants.
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and MATTHEW A. KERN, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
A. TEODOSIO, Judge.
Appellants, Angel Rivera, Eliezer Claudio, David Pena, Ruth
Rojas-Avelo, Rafael Esquilin, Rolando Carter, and Jonathon
Barnette ("Clients") appeal from an order
disqualifying their retained counsel, attorneys Jack Bradley
and Michael Stepanik, in the Lorain County Court of Common
Pleas. We affirm.
Following an investigation into a drug distribution network,
thirteen individuals were charged with multiple felonies,
including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and
conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, felonies of the first
degree. Ten of those individuals retained the services of
Bradley & Stepanik Co., LPA, for legal representation.
The State filed a motion to disqualify counsel based on
Prof.Cond.R. 1.7, which governs conflicts of interest
involving current clients. The trial court held at least two
hearings on the matter and subsequently granted the
State's motion. Clients appealed the trial court's
order and filed nearly identical merit briefs. This Court
consolidated their appeals because they arose from the same
Clients now appeal from the trial court's order
disqualifying trial counsel and raise one assignment of error
for this Court's review.
TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DISQUALIFIED DEFENDANTS']
COUNSEL OF CHOICE, IN VIOLATION OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT OF THE
UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 10, OF THE
In their sole assignment of error, Clients argue that the
trial court erred in disqualifying attorneys Jack Bradley and
Michael Stepanik as their trial counsel in this case. We
We first note that a pretrial ruling removing a criminal
defendant's retained counsel of choice is a final
appealable order. State v. Chambliss, 128 Ohio St.3d
507, 2011-Ohio-1785, ¶ 27.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article I, Section 10, of the Ohio Constitution guarantee a
criminal defendant the right to counsel for his defense.
State v. Miller, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27048,
2015-Ohio-279, ¶ 8. "'[A]n element of this
right is the right of a defendant who does not require
appointed counsel to choose who will represent
him.'" Id., quoting United States v.
Gonzalez-Lopez,548 U.S. 140, 144 (2006). The right to
counsel also includes "a correlative right to
representation that is free from conflicts of interest."
Wood v. Georgia,450 U.S. 261, 271 (1981). Joint
representation is not a per se violation of the
constitutional right to counsel, and multiple defendants may
enjoy certain advantages from joint representation, as
mounting a common defense often gives strength against a
common attack. Holloway v. Arkansas,435 U.S. 475,
482-483 (1978). "A court commits structural error when
it wrongfully denies a defendant his counsel of choice, so a