Chadwick v. Superior Court

Decision Date23 May 1980
Citation164 Cal.Rptr. 864,106 Cal.App.3d 108
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesBlake CHADWICK, Carole Hernandez, Robert Hodges, Armando Baeza, David Cornwell, Ralph Beech, Jr., Husey English, Jr., Paul Espinoza, Brian Glen, Marcella Garcia, Louis Gutierrez, John Henson, Danny Haase, Victor Harris, Fred Jackson, Anthony Lockett, Timothy Motley, David Padilla, Deborah Palacios, Sylvia Paulat, Laura Salinas, Robert Smith, Maria Tejeda, Ricky Templeton, Christopher Witczak, Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT of California FOR the COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA, Respondent, The PEOPLE of the State of California by Stanley M. Roden, District Attorney for the County of Santa Barbara, Real Party in Interest. David GODWIN, Larry Strong, Ramiro Salazar, Linda Guerrero, Will David Young, Terry Van Dyke, Joseph E. Silva, Jesus Lopez, Michael Charles Maidel, Barbara Maybee, Maria Ana Delgado, Romeo Maratas, Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT of California FOR the COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA, Respondent, The PEOPLE of the State of California, by Stanley M. Roden, District Attorney for the County of Santa Barbara, Real Party in Interest. Civ. 58348, 58347.

Glen Mowrer, Jr., Public Defender, County of Santa Barbara, Barbara J. Beck, Deputy Public Defender and James L. Crowder, Deputy Public Defender, for petitioners.

No appearance for respondent.

Stanley M. Roden, Dist. Atty., County of Santa Barbara and Gerald McC. Franklin, Deputy Dist. Atty., for real party in interest.

EPSTEIN, * Associate Justice.

In these consolidated proceedings, the Public Defender of Santa Barbara County seeks to disqualify the entire District Attorney's Office of that county from prosecuting some 39 pending felony cases. The defendants (petitioners here) were represented by James B. Jennings, then a deputy public defender of Santa Barbara. Mr. Jennings terminated his employment with the Public Defender on December 21, 1979. He accepted an appointment as a deputy district attorney, the position he now holds, on December 24, 1979. His entire assignment is to represent the People in juvenile court matters heard in Santa Maria.

We have concluded that the trial judges acted within their discretion in denying the Public Defender's motions to recuse the District Attorney's Office.


Following Mr. Jennings' appointment as a deputy district attorney, the Public Defender presented two separate recusal motions seeking to disqualify the District Attorney from prosecuting pending cases in which Mr. Jennings had represented defendants. Each motion was for a group of cases, and each was heard by a different judge. The first motion was on behalf of 12 (later 14) defendants (the Godwin group), and the second on behalf of 25 others (the Chadwick group).

The motions were considered on the basis of declarations, points and authorities and oral argument. In addition, the Attorney General 1 filed a memorandum and argued in the Godwin group, and Mr. Jennings testified at the hearing in the Chadwick group.

Both motions were denied. The cases are before us following direction by the Supreme Court that we grant alternative writs of mandate and stays pending our review. 2

Because of the identity of facts and issues, we have consolidated the cases.


During his more than 31/2 years of service as a deputy public defender, Mr. Jennings was in charge of felony cases in the north county area. He supervised two other deputies and a support staff at the Public Defender's Office in Santa Maria.

As a trial deputy, he acquired information within the attorney-client privilege. (Evid.Code, § 952.) Much of it was never committed to writing, but retained only in Mr. Jennings' memory. Understandably, successor counsel have an on-going need to confer with Mr. Jennings about the 39 cases.

Mr. Jennings is willing to do this, subject only to consent by his former clients. Indeed he already has conferred with successor counsel about these cases.

The District Attorney's Office has been at some pains to isolate Mr. Jennings from any prosecutorial involvement in the cases. As we have seen, Mr. Jennings assignment is solely to juvenile court cases. He expects this assignment to last for six months, the usual tour. He has no connection with the prosecution of the cases he had handled as a deputy public defender. 3 He has sworn not to discuss these cases with prosecutorial personnel.

Mr. Jennings has no supervisorial or policymaking role in the prosecutor's office. His own office is located in the Santa Maria juvenile court building, which is separate from the building that houses the District Attorney's Office. He is not supervised by the assistant district attorney in charge of north county operations, Mr. Sutton. Instead, the organizational chart of the office has been modified to place Mr. Jennings under the supervision of Mr. Sneddon, the deputy in charge of south county criminal operations.

It will be necessary for Mr. Jennings to be in and out of the District Attorney's Office in Santa Maria almost daily. His secretary is located there, and he must visit the office for dictation, and to pick up and drop off files and messages. 4

The record is replete with references to Mr. Jennings' high standing and integrity. In a declaration filed in the Godwin cases, the Public Defender stated that he had known Mr. Jennings for 10 years and "considered him to be a person of high ethical and moral character. I have never known him to act improperly and have no reason to believe that he will do so in his present capacity." The Public Defender's briefs before this court disavow contention that any attorney involved in these cases will act improperly, and concede that both Mr. Sutton and Mr. Jennings are respected members of the Bar.

Only one of the two judges commented in the recusal motions, and he was unequivocal in his praise for both Mr. Sutton and Mr. Jennings.


The Trial Courts Acted Within Their Discretion in Denying Petitioners' Motions to Recuse.

1. Authority and Exercise of Discretion.

Greer, decided three years ago, is the leading case on recusal of a prosecutor. In that case, our Supreme Court reviewed the competing arguments, including separation of powers, and concluded that "trial courts have the authority to recuse prosecuting attorneys in appropriate circumstances." (19 Cal.3d at p. 258, 137 Cal.Rptr. at p. 478, 561 P.2d at p. 1166.) The power to do so is inherent, and is codified in Code of Civil Procedure section 128, subdivision 5. 5

The Court reviewed the due process right of persons accused of crime to a fair and impartial trial, the obligation of the prosecution as well as the trial court to respect that right, and the need for prosecutorial impartiality. Such impartiality is necessary not only to assure fairness to the accused but also to sustain public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the criminal justice system. (See People v. Rhodes (1974) 12 Cal.3d 180, 185, 115 Cal.Rptr. 235, 524 P.2d 363; see also Berger v United States (1935) 295 U.S. 78, 88, 55 S.Ct. 629, 633, 79 L.Ed. 1314.)

The Court cited situations in which participation of a particular prosecutor would be clearly improper: prosecution of a former client, without consent, for an offense about which the prosecutor obtained information from the former client that is protected by the attorney-client privilege (see, e. g., People v. Gerold (1914) 265 Ill. 448, 107 N.E. 165); trying a defendant against whom the prosecutor is involved in civil litigation (Ganger v. Peyton (4th Cir., 1967) 379 F.2d 709). 6

Greer itself involved a murder prosecution in which "(t)he victim of the homicide was the son of a member of the district attorney's staff who worked in the very office in which the prosecution was being prepared." (People v. Superior Court (Greer ), supra, 19 Cal.3d at p. 270, 137 Cal.Rptr. at p. 486, 561 P.2d at p. 1174.) On these facts, the Court found that it "cannot conclude that the trial judge abused his discretion in disqualifying the district attorney." (Id., at p. 269, 137 Cal.Rptr., at p. 486, 561 P.2d, at p. 1174.)

"It is important to note that Greer merely states that the trial court may, within its discretion, excuse the district attorney, not that it must. Because the decision whether or not to disqualify is within its discretion of the court, it may be overturned on appeal only if this discretion is abused." (People v. Battin (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 635, 671, 143 Cal.Rptr. 731, 733; cert. den. (1978) 439 U.S. 862, 99 S.Ct. 183, 58 L.Ed.2d 171 (court's emphasis); see also People v. Superior Court (Martin ) 98 Cal.App.3d 515, 519, 159 Cal.Rptr. 625.)

In one of the two groups of cases before us (the Godwin group), the factual issues on recusal were resolved by the trial court on the basis of competing declarations. Such factual resolutions are binding on appeal. (Jacuzzi v. Jacuzzi Bros., Inc. (1963) 218 Cal.App.2d 24, 27-28, 32 Cal.Rptr. 188.) In the other (the Chadwick group) the factual issues were decided on the basis of declarations and testimony (of Mr. Jennings), and the trial court resolution is no less binding.

Moreover, the cases are before us on petitions for writ of mandate. "Thus, we can overturn the determination of the trial court only if that court acted in excess of its jurisdiction or there is no rational basis in the record supporting the manner in which the court exercised the power and discretion vested in it." (People v. Municipal Court (Byars ) 77 Cal.App.3d 294, 298, 143 Cal.Rptr. 491, 494.)

Finally, particular caution is in order before an entire prosecutorial office, as distinguished from a particular prosecutor in that office, is recused. (See, People v. Superior Court (Martin ), supra, 98 Cal.App.3d at p. 519, 159 Cal.Rptr. 625; State, ex rel. Goldsmith v. Superior Court (1979) Ind., 386 N.E.2d 942, 945.)

2. "Actual" Conflict of Interest. 7


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