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Is Judge McBride Power-Mad, or Just Efficient? Discuss …

In a reply brief filed today with the state Supreme Court, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office portrayed Presiding Judge James McBride of the San Francisco court as a power-tripping judge overstepping his station by enforcing a policy that permits only two particular judges could approve a plea deal.

In the case, People v. Alejandro Alvarez, S175844, Judge Kevin McCarthy approved a plea agreement for Alvarez, a guy charged with second-degree robbery, but ordered the parties back to Judge Charles Haines, one of two judges McBride has approved for pretrial assignments. Haines then rejected the deal.

The policy amounts to an unpublished rule that should be vetted by the public, argued Christopher Gauger, deputy public defender. “Petitioner believes this rule would draw much discussion from the defense bar, the prosecution (who at least in the individual case was also trying to settle the case), and the public in general,” he said in the brief.

But in a brief filed Sept. 17, the superior court’s lawyer, Joseph Quinn of Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, argued that the practice was an interpretation of a rule — not a “nefarious underground rule” — and that it was the court’s attempt to answer an AOC recommendation to streamline its pretrial process. “The challenged practice can be said only to have frustrated an expectation — an expectation that the people and the defense would be able to shop proposed pleas at the time of their choosing to the judge of their choosing,” Quinn argued.

posted on Legal Pad, a Cal Law Blog
by Kate Moser
September 21, 2009

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