The S.C. Supreme Court has upheld the simple assault conviction of a Columbia woman as well as a lower court’s decision that kept her from acting as her own attorney because of her “gross abuse of the justice system.”
The decision released Wednesday upheld the conviction of Marie-Therese Assa’ad-Faltas that grew out of a 2009 confrontation with her then-landlord. The landlord and an eyewitness testified in a municipal court proceeding that Assa’ad-Faltas “repeatedly and forcefully shoved” paperwork into the landlord’s chest and stated “in a loud, hostile manner ‘You got it! You got it!’ ”
In her appeal to the Supreme Court, Assa’ad Faltas contended she had the right to act as her own lawyer in the 2013 non-jury municipal court proceeding in which she was found guilty of simple assault and sentenced to 20 days in jail.
Usually, defendants have the right to represent themselves in criminal proceedings, but in cases where the defendant acts in an inappropriate or abusive manner, courts can require the defendant to have a lawyer, the high court said.
Assa’ad-Faltas has “over the last 20 years ... engaged in a pattern of vexatious and disruptive conduct aimed at courts throughout South Carolina and beyond,” the high court’s unanimous decision found.
“Since 1997, (Assa’ad-Faltas) has been involved in 52 matters before this Court, and 21 matters before the court of appeals, the vast majority of which (Assa’ad-Faltas) has initiated and which have been found to be without merit or frivolous,” the high court wrote.
Additionally, Assa’ad-Faltas “has pursued and approached individual members of this court and other court personnel in non-public areas of the courthouse, in the courthouse parking lot, at a hotel in Columbia, and even during a worship service at a local church,” the high court wrote.
“Her unrelenting efforts to contact and harass (current and former) justices of this court have resulted in members of this court recusing themselves from all matters involving (Assa’ad-Faltas),” the decision said.
Assa’ad-Faltas’ conduct “and the overwhelming number of documents and exhibits she submits constitute a gross abuse of the justice system,” the high court said in upholding the lower court’s decision.
Moreover, Assa’ad-Faltas has also “persistently engaged in disruptive and inappropriate conduct in state circuit courts such that her physical access to the Richland County courthouse was restricted ...,” the decision said.
Assa’ad-Faltas lawyer, John Strom of the appellate division of the S.C. Commisson on Indigent Defense, said in an email that he has no comment on the court’s decision.
The four justices ruling against Assa’ad-Faltas were John Kittredge, Kaye Hearn, John Few and acting Justice James Moore. Chief Justice Don Beatty did not participate.