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State v. Lipski

Supreme Court of Maine

September 26, 2019

STATE OF MAINE
v.
MARK J. LIPSKI

          Submitted On Briefs: September 10, 2019

          Mark J. Lipski, appellant pro se.

          Toff Toffolon, Dep. Dist. Atty., Ellsworth, for appellee State of Maine.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Mark J. Lipski appeals from a judgment of conviction for operating a vehicle when the registration of that vehicle was suspended or revoked (Class E), 29-A M.R.S. § 2417 (2018), entered by the trial court (Washington County, Mallonee, J.) after a jury trial.[1] Lipski challenges the conviction, arguing that the court violated his constitutional right to the assistance of appointed counsel in his defense because, although he was not at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment upon conviction, he may be imprisoned as a result of his present intention to defy any court order resulting from the conviction. We affirm the judgment of conviction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On March 13, 2018, following Lipski's failure to pay a toll, [2] a notice of registration suspension was mailed to Lipski, notifying him that his registration would be suspended on March 28, 2018. On the effective day of the suspension, a Maine State Police trooper stopped Lipski when he was driving and issued him a uniform summons and complaint for operating a vehicle after registration suspension. Lipski was charged by separate criminal complaint for operating a vehicle when the registration of that vehicle was suspended, (Class E), 29-A M.R.S. § 2417. On May 8, 2018, Lipski was scheduled to appear in the District Court for his arraignment on the charge. Lipski failed to appear, and a warrant was issued for Lipski's arrest that same day. An officer arrested Lipski and Lipski's cash bail was set at $150. Subsequently, the bail was paid and Lipski was released.

         [¶3] On June 5, 2018, Lipski, unrepresented by counsel, finally appeared before the trial court [D. Mitchell, J.) for arraignment. Lipski pleaded not guilty. Although the complaint against Lipski stated, "No Jail Requested, "[3] Lipski requested state-paid counsel. The court determined that if convicted, Lipski would be sentenced to pay a fine and not to serve a term of imprisonment, and informed Lipski that he was not entitled to the assistance of state-appointed counsel in his defense. Lipski argued that because he was unwilling and unable to pay any fine, he would serve time in jail as an inevitable consequence of the conviction, and therefore he had the right to appointed counsel. The court denied this request.[4]

         [¶4] Lipski requested a jury trial and, after jury selection, was tried before a jury without counsel. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the court (Mallonee, J.) entered a judgment after imposing a fine of $300 supplemented by surcharges. Lipski timely appealed. See 15 M.R.S. § 2115 (2018); M.R. App. P. 2B(b)(1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶5] The briefs before us do not represent models of clarity. Lipski filed an uncounseled brief from which we discern two issues presented on appeal. Lipski argues that (A) he has a right to court-appointed counsel because of his inability or unwillingness to pay a fine and (B) jury selection proceedings were deficient. The State's one-page brief has not aided us in identifying and analyzing the law pertaining to these issues. We address each in turn.

         A. The Right to Court-Appointed Counsel

         [¶6] First, Lipski contends that he has a right to state-paid counsel because his inability, or unwillingness, to pay any fine will inevitably result in jail time. We review alleged constitutional violations de ...


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