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State v. Montanez

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 8, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Luis Damian Cruz Montanez, Appellant.

          Pennington County District Court File No. 57-CR-18-586

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Michael Everson, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kristine A. Kolar, Ninth District Public Defender, Scott G. Collins, Assistant Public Defender, Thief River Falls, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Cleary, Chief Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minn. Stat. § 611.21 (2018), authorizing payment for expert, investigative, or other services, does not authorize payment for interpreter services to facilitate the public defender's out-of-court communications with a client, even when the public defender asserts that it does not have funds available to pay for these services.

          OPINION

          CLEARY, CHIEF JUDGE

         In this appeal from an ex parte order denying appellant's application for funds to obtain interpreter services under Minn. Stat. § 611.21 (2018), appellant argues that the chief judge of the district court abused his discretion by denying funding. We affirm.

         FACTS

         Pennington County charged appellant Luis Damian Cruz Montanez with attempted second-degree intentional murder and second-degree assault for allegedly stabbing C.J.R. with a knife. Appellant, who is represented by the public defender, does not speak English and requires the assistance of a Spanish-language interpreter. Appellant has had the assistance of a Spanish-language interpreter at all of his district court appearances.

         Appellant filed an ex parte application under Minn. Stat. § 611.21 requesting $2, 000 for interpreter services to facilitate attorney-client communication outside of court.[1] In support of the application, appellant included affidavits from his counsel, the chief public defender for the district, and the chief administrator for the state Board of Public Defense. The affidavits state that (1) the fiscal-year 2019[2] budget allocations for experts, transcripts, interpreters, and conflict attorneys have been made to each district public defender's office and are "otherwise encumbered," and (2) the Ninth District Public Defender's budget no longer has funds available to provide interpreter services.

         The chief judge denied appellant's application for interpreter services. Although the chief judge found that "the Ninth District Public Defender budget for expert services is completely depleted for the remainder of FY 2019," the chief judge denied appellant's request for interpreter services under section 611.21. The chief judge concluded that section 611.21 "is to be used for services other than the services of a qualified interpreter," and that Minn. Stat. § 611.33, subd. 3 (2018), requires the state Board of Public Defense to pay for interpreter services for client consultations outside of court.

         This appeal followed. We granted appellant's request for expedited consideration. See Minn. Stat. ยง 611.21(c) (providing that defendant may appeal immediately and request an expedited hearing). Although not a party, the attorney ...


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