Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writ filed in Santana, Vasquez;
other trial actions linger in limbo

by Tom Nadeau

The defense has filed a writ of mandamus asking the 3rd District Court of Appeals to reject a Yuba County court ruling that a trial may proceed in People v. Santana, Vasquez, #08-825 a spokesperson for defendant Jesse Santana said Wednesday.

Supervising Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Canzoneri has not yet responded to a Notable Trials query as to what action, if any, his office has taken, or is contemplating taking.

When visiting Judge John Darlington ruled in August that the county superior court trial could proceed against the two beleaguered lawyers, both sides – defense and prosecution – indicated they might file such writs.

Neither was entirely happy with Darlington’s rulings, since he rejected some arguments by both sides. He dismissed some charges against Santana, but not all. He held Vasquez for trial on one charge that was dismissed against Santana. The prosecution argued strongly that none of the charges be dismissed.

A writ of mandamus is a judicial remedy in which a higher court can order, or mandate, that a lower court do or refrain from doing some specific act which the lower court has already undertaken or is considering undertaking.

Think of a school crossing guard sticking up a “STOP!” sign.

Next action date somewhat iffy ...

The 3DCA’s response to the Santana, Vasquez writ could come "at any time," a Santana spokesperson said Wednesday. But appeals justices typically rule on writs within 90 days, attorney Dave Vasquez's defense attorney Michael Barrette said earlier.

Santana and Vasquez were expected to return to court at 1 p.m. Oct. 1 to enter their formal pleas. Despite two years of hearings, they have yet to be actually arraigned in this mammoth case. A calendar of pre-trial hearings would also be set that day.

However, Santana’s spokesperson said the status of that Oct. 1 plea date was unclear at this time.

Santana initially faced charges of bribery and unethical legal conduct. The bribery charge against Santana was dismissed by Darlington.

Their case is legally significant because it could -- depending on how the courts rule on it -- jeopardize fundamental ways California attorneys counsel their clients and negotiate with the opposing side.


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