El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Dylan Sullivan pulled from duty
El Dorado County District Attorney officials have excluded El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Dylan Sullivan from proceedings until further notice.
DA officials cite California Civil Code 170.6 to back up their action. The code states, “A judge, court commissioner or referee of a superior court of the state of California shall not try a civil or criminal action or special proceeding of any kind or character nor hear any matter therein that involves a contested issue of law or fact when it is established as provided in this section that the judge or court commissioner is prejudiced against a party or attorney or the interest of a party or attorney appearing in the action or proceeding.”
“The legal system is designed so that the DA’s Office as well as the police department is afford the opportunity, when applicable, to exercise the legal authority to exclude a judge from proceedings,” DA investigator Dave Stevenson told the Mountain Democrat. “We are utilizing this legal right.”
Sullivan was not available for comment. The Department 7 judge handled criminal and traffic proceedings in the El Dorado County Government Center’s Building C basement in Placerville. She was first elected in June 2014.
Short URL: http://www.villagelife.com/?p=51676
Kirk Smith Challenges DA Vern Pierson to Put Up or Stand Down regarding Judge Dylan Sullivan
2015-09-01, 07:17:47 PLACERVILLE CA
Kirk Smith: “The origin of the phrase “peremptory challenge” — a very old legal term — means that a reason does not have to be stated. And the DA”s office did NOT give any reasons to reporters or in court papers.”
What’s next, Vern?
Why ask the Judge? Judges are barred from commenting, making the DA’s first front page smear a couple weeks ago all the more cowardly. Judge Sullivan correctly and appropriately cited and followed the governing cannons of judicial ethics. Why not ask Vern Pierson for comment? And please look at the actual court papers the DA filed to back up his sleazy attack because I read them and there’s nothing in those short pages to support Pierson’s outlandish bias claim, but much to show that this is another political vendetta launched by one of the most ambitious politicians in the area.
Pierson’s thin court papers were signed by the DA’s right hand, Jim Clinchard, who, with Pierson, were both among the biggest backers of attorney Joe Hoffman against Judge Sullivan in last year’s judicial election. It was one of the nastiest judicial races in this county’s history, though not as ugly as the one also waged on behalf of Hoffman in an earlier judicial election against Judge Warren Stracener. [Ok, so the Mountain Democrat’s endorsements were also on the wrong side both times too.]
The “peremptory challenge” rule cited by the DA proscribes that a judge is to step aside “when it is established as provided in this section that the judge or court commissioner is prejudiced against a party or attorney or the interest of a party or attorney appearing in the action or proceeding.” But instead of prejudice or bias, the Clinchard document alleges that the county “has a custom and practice” of judges handling courtroom 7 matters sending them to other judges for trial, and not retaining them, except in the case of Phillip and Nancy Garrido.
What? No rule, no statute, no case law, just one lawyer’s vague anecdotal notion about some “procedure or practice”? Sorry, but it is judges, not folklore from DA’s, who have the right and duty to manage their calendars. Court schedules and court calendars are governed by judges, not politicians. Yes, the same inherent judicial authority used when a judge in Division 7 a few years ago chose to retain for trial the Garrido case, something Pierson did not object to at that time.
Vern Pierson lost a race for legislative office a few years ago and then ran for DA like a consolation prize and is now widely reported to be ready to run for Assemblywoman Beth Gaines seat once she makes her expected run against Supervisor Ron “Mik” Mikulaco. You want to know what is behind Pierson’s extraordinary attack on a sitting judge, follow the money; look at the campaign contributions for an idea about Pierson’s motive. See whether one the biggest if not the biggest contributor to the campaigns of Pierson, Hoffman and Gaines are the same. That’s just for starters. Keep looking.
Imagine the chilling impact on judges in this community when a politically motivated District Attorney can get away with this kind of unilateral slam. The origin of the phrase “peremptory challenge” — a very old legal term — means that a reason does not have to be stated. And the DA”s office did NOT give any reasons to reporters or in court papers. As a public official, Vern Pierson owes the public a detailed statement about the specific facts he had in mind. The integrity and independence of the judiciary, the very meaning of justice in this community, deserves no less than a full and honest explanation.
Kirk Smith Explains DA Peirson’s Underhanded Move re Judge Dylan Sullivan
2015-09-04, 06:09:48 PLACERVILLE CA
— CHARLET NALBACH BURCIN of El Dorado Hills wrote:
The Honorable Dylan Sullivan was elected by this county’s voters by an overwhelming majority. For her to be removed suddenly, without warning, from proceedings in Department 7 by District Attorney officials is a travesty of justice.
Do you really think that the voters are going to stand by the District Attorney’s Office’s decision without demanding a clear explanation? You may cite your California Civil Code 170.6 as the reason — bias toward the attorney, district attorney or other party. What is the real reason? Does this have anything to do with Vern Pierson?
I hope the Honorable Dylan Sullivan appeals this “movement” against her so that we as El Dorado County residents are able to get to the truth and to the real story going on behind the scenes.
— Then Kirk Callan Smith responded:
Your outrage about Vern Pierson’s spitefully nasty political attack on a distinguished judge is certainly in order. But your suggestion that the judge “appeal” Pierson’s action is not an option. She can’t. The Rule 170.6 “peremptory challenge” does not allow for an appeal, no response of any kind; it operates automatically just by having been filed. The rules of judicial ethics also prevents the judge from making public comment, a fact that makes Pierson’s gutless move all the more despicable.
The remedies, therefore, have to be pursued by the rest of us. They include such things as the public sending more letters like yours, groups picketing Pierson’s office, starting a recall campaign now made even easier by recent laws, and calling on the Mountain Democrat’s editorial board to insist that Vern Pierson reveal whatever facts he has to support his very vile defamatory smear — which Pierson cannot do since such facts do not exist — or for him to withdraw the challenge. Voters deserve an honest, competent District Attorney, not the appearance of a political hack.
Yes, demand that the Mountain Democrat speak up for the integrity and independence of our local judiciary. This paper has to stop being a mouthpiece for incumbents, to either stop remaining silent about political sleaze or stop wondering why its news pages and subscription numbers continue to decline. This paper, deeply afraid of controversy, sits on a great many important stories, including this one. We can insist on more.
A number of local lawyers privately call Pierson’s action pure politics and say this drama came about when he continued to find that Judge Sullivan could not be pushed around by his office. The fact that Pierson’s office has considerable discretion when it comes to who to charge and the kind of plea deals that can be made, sadly can make silence a safe choice for any lawyer wishing to pay their bills. Members of the county bar, so small it can seem like a club, have to speak up as well, and very strongly, about the latest Pierson fiasco since it can reflect so poorly on the entire legal community as well.
The public needs a strong and independent judiciary as well as a prosecutor that operates with the highest standards of the legal professional and not like a political opportunist guided by an aggressive thirst for higher office. and the apparent power of campaign contributions.
“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid,” President Eisenhower once said. And if the people of this county want a judicial system that is truly fair and just, free of bias and political taint, it will not come about by silence but rather by vigilance and protest.
Kirk Callan Smith, Placerville, California