On October 1, 1998, appellant Robert Fisher was charged with DUI and operating a motor vehicle without a license plate. On November 10, 1998, appellant demanded a speedy trial pursuant to OCGA 17-7-170
, which provides that a defendant is entitled to be tried in the term the demand is made or at the next succeeding regular court term. The State Court of Fulton County has six terms of court per year, beginning on the first Monday in January, March, May, July, September, and November. OCGA 15-6-3
(3). Under OCGA 17-7-170
, appellant was entitled to be tried during the November or January term, or be discharged or acquitted of the charges against him.
On February 25, appellant's case was called for trial and appellant's counsel did not appear in the courtroom. The trial court continued the case until March 30. On April 2, appellant filed a motion for discharge and acquittal due to the state's failure to try him within the November or January terms as required by OCGA 17-7-170
. At the hearing on the motion, appellant's counsel testified that the criminal jury case he was scheduled to try on February 24 did not conclude until the early afternoon of February 25, after the trial court rescheduled appellant's case, and that he agreed to try another matter not listed in the notice of conflicts after the first trial concluded. The trial court subsequently denied the motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling, concluding that appellant waived his right to a speedy trial by filing a notice of conflict. We granted certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals was correct in holding that defense counsel's filing of a notice of conflicts letter, filed pursuant to USCR 17.1 (B), constituted a waiver of the defendant's demand for speedy trial.
The State argues that filing the conflicts letter was a voluntary act that shows appellant consented to the waiver of his speedy trial demand. We do not agree with that assertion. The filing of a notice of conflicts is mandatory under USCR 17.1. Trial counsel has no discretion in determining the order in which the cases are to be tried. The order of the cases to be tried can be changed only by agreement by the judges on the affected courts. Thus, since the filing of a notice of conflicts is mandatory under the rules, it cannot be evidence that defendant consented to have his case tried at a later term.
In the event any matter listed in the letter notice is disposed of prior to the scheduled time set for any other matter listed or subsequent to the scheduled time set but prior to the end of the calendar, the attorney shall immediately notify all affected parties, including the court affected, of the disposal and shall, absent good cause shown to the court, proceed with the remaining case or cases in which the conflict was resolved by the disposal in the order of priorities as set forth heretofore.
The record does not reflect that defense counsel notified any of the affected parties or trial courts once the conflicting case concluded subsequent to the scheduled time set. Instead of attempting to proceed with appellant's trial, which was next in priority mandated by USCR 17.1, defense counsel agreed to try another case not listed in the notice of conflicts letter. Notwithstanding the fact the trial court had continued the case at that point, appellant's action effectively removed the State's final opportunity to comply with the speedy trial demand.
Georgia courts have sought to guard against manipulation of the trial calendar by defendants seeking automatic acquittal ( Sykes, supra (defendant waived speedy trial demand by not appearing, without justification, when his case was called to trial); Jackson v. State, 222 Ga. App. 700 (475 SE2d 717) (1996)
(defendant waived speedy trial demand where defense counsel sought a six-week continuance that precluded State from trying defendant's case until the last empaneled jury of the term)) as well as dilution of the right to a speedy trial by conditioning it on the "convenience" or "ingenuity" of the State in scheduling the case. Birts v. State, 192 Ga. App. 476 (385 SE2d 120) (1989)
(defendant did not waive speedy trial demand for failing to appear when case was called for trial where defense counsel had been granted a formal leave of absence and the State delayed scheduling the matter until the last day of the term). Were we to disregard defense counsel's failure to adhere to the priority of cases mandated under USCR 17.1, we would leave open the possibility for manipulation of the trial calendar by defense counsel. Had defense counsel followed USCR 17.1, the State would have had an opportunity to try appellant's case before the end of the term. Under these circumstances, we conclude that defense counsel's actions in failing to notify the affected trial courts once the higher priority matter had concluded waived appellant's speedy trial demand.