Legal Blog

Despite Conservative Concurrence, Spolin & Dukes Attorneys Win Major Case in Court of Appeal

Published on February 14, 2024

Attorney Caitlin Dukes has achieved a significant victory in the court of appeal on a case where a client, previously convicted of murder, was granted an evidentiary hearing to consider removing the murder conviction from his record. This major decision occurred on January 17, 2024.

Ms. Dukes, collaborating with two other attorneys from the firm Spolin & Dukes P.C., played a pivotal role in the legal work necessary for this win. The judges who signed off on this decision are Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert, Associate Justice Kenneth Yegan, and Associate Justice Tari Cody.  The central issue was whether the trial court had acted improperly by denying the client the right to an evidentiary hearing about the removal of his murder conviction.

The appeal court found that the lower court had relied on inadmissible material and its denial was insufficient. The Spolin & Dukes attorneys argued that the lower court’s decision was erroneous and that the client deserved a comprehensive evidentiary hearing, including the ability to call witnesses and present documentary evidence, for a fair argument on whether the client warrants resentencing with the murder conviction removed.

The case is now back in the lower court, where the judge is mandated to conduct the required evidentiary hearing, as sought by the firm. This case is especially noteworthy because the client had dismissed his former lawyer to hire the Spolin & Dukes attorneys. The former lawyer had vowed to scrutinize the firm’s work for any errors.  Not only was the case handled with aplomb, but the firm’s work led to a victory.  Generally speaking, winning criminal appeals is a rare and difficult achievement.

Associate Justice Kenneth Yegan issued a concurring opinion where he harshly criticized the other justices for their liberal approach to the case.  Justice Yegan had been appointed to the judiciary by a Republican governor, and his concurrence expressed annoyance that the Spolin & Dukes client has already “whittled down” his sentence from 50-years-to-life to now 15-years-to-life, with the possibility of even more reductions in the Superior Court based on the current win.  Nonetheless, even this conservative judge was forced to agree with the Spolin & Dukes attorneys in granting the appeal, writing: “But, I must concur for the reasons stated in People v. Arreguin.”  The client and his family were delighted with the outcome, as were the attorneys at the firm.

Ms. Dukes acknowledges the hard work of not just her own but also the other attorneys, paralegals, assistants, and staff who dedicated many hours to provide the highest level of advocacy for this client. Their collective efforts paid off in this case, and she expresses her happiness and gratitude for the successful outcome.

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