Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Judge Is Banished From Case After Five Efforts
Office of San Joaquin Public Defender Succeeds After Seeking Disqualification of Jurist In Superior Court Trial Department, Appellate Division, C.A., S.C., Back to C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Persistence has paid off for the Office of San Joaquin Public Defender which yesterday gained an order of the Third District Court of Appeal disqualifying a judge who denied a peremptory challenge as untimely—but only after the rare intercession in such a matter by the California Supreme Court.
Under the decision, which came in an unpublished opinion by Presiding Justice Vance Raye, petitioner Paul Thomas Guiney, will have his trial in San Joaquin Superior Court, on a charge of public intoxication, held in the courtroom of some judge other than Phillip R. Urie.
Guiney was charged with public intoxication, a misdemeanor, on July 22, 2016, Initially, he was represented by private counsel, but the Public Defender’s Office was appointed on Nov. 1, 2016, to take over the defense.
On Dec. 9, that office filed a challenge to Urie under Code of Civil Procedure §170.6, which the judge rejected as untimely.
That action was challenged by Deputy Public Defender Nelson C. Lu, who handles motions, writs, and appeals for his office. (Deputy Public Defender April Van Dyke is Guiney’s trial attorney.)
Writ Petition Filed
Lu on Dec. 22 filed a petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition in Appellate Division, which was denied on Jan. 27 of this year.
Undaunted, a writ was sought in the Third District Court of Appeal on Feb. 2; it was summarily denied on Feb. 9.
Lu on Feb. 15 took the long-shot action of seeking review in the California Supreme Court. The high court on Feb. 21 stayed proceedings in the San Joaquin case, and the next day, sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office asking for an answer to the petition.
On March 29, by unanimous vote, the Supreme Court declared:
“The petition for review is granted. The matter is transferred to the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, with directions to vacate its order denying the petition for writ of mandate or prohibition and to issue an order directing respondent court to show cause why the relief sought in the petition should not be granted. The stay issued by the court remains in effect pending further order of the Court of Appeal.”
Victory for the PD’s Office came yesterday, with Raye declaring:
“[W]e received a return from the People wherein they provide additional exhibits, set forth a detailed discussion about how ‘[c]ourts preside over misdemeanor cases in the Lodi Branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court,’ and concede that no all purpose assignment had been made as of the time defendant asserted his peremptory challenge. In sum, the People admit the peremptory challenge was both timely and meritorious. Given the record and the People’s concession, further discussion is unnecessary.”
The Superior Court was ordered to grant the disqualification motion.
Responding to a request for comment on the infrequency of Supreme Court involvement in a dispute over the disqualification of a judge, Lu said:
“I think that judge disqualification matters tend to be on the Court of Appeal level; you rarely see it on the Supreme Court level. (However, the Supreme Court recently did so in Maas v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 962, and one of the most important cases on judicial qualifications, People v. Superior Court (Lavi) (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1164, was a Supreme Court opinion.) In this case, I fully expected to win the case on the Court of Appeal level initially, and was surprised when we didn’t.”
Judge Often Affidavited
He declined to comment on Guiney’s reasons for wanting to disqualify Urie, other than to say:
“I will note that both the defense and the prosecution fairly regularly seek to disqualify Judge Urie.”
There are four comments on Urie on the Robing Room website and four on Gavel Bangers—all negative.
A criminal law attorney, commenting on Urie on the Robing Room website, says:
“For pretrial conferences, he stays in his chambers the entire time while attorneys confer in the courtroom. He is no help at resolving matters. He doesn’t know the law on simple and complex issues.”
A person listed as “other” charges that Urie “loses his temper in court” and is “generally just unprofessional and very rude,” while another non-lawyer terms him “rude and demeaning” and claims he “[t]reated attorneys like children in front [of the] jury.”
On the Gavel Bangers website, Urie is described by one juror as “[d]isgraceful and rude” and by one witness as the “worst judge to deal with.”
When Urie ran for a judgeship in 2008, the San Joaquin Superior Court’s presiding judge, William J. Murray Jr., denounced the candidacy, saying his 23 years as a deputy district attorney have constituted a “career without distinction.” Urie won the election.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company