This case involved serious allegations against Robert E. Stark, the auditor-controller of Sutter County where the Sutter County District Attorney's Office claimed that Stark violated statutes, county rules, and Sutter County Board of Supervisors (Board) resolutions detailing the requirements of his office. At issue were four provisions of Penal Code section 424, all of which proscribe general intent offenses. Three of those provisions criminalize acting without authority or failing to act as required by law or legal duty. The court held that those offenses additionally required that defendant knew, or was criminally negligent in failing to know, the legal requirements that governed the act or omission. The court also held that a claim of misinstruction on the mens rea of a crime could be challenged under Penal Code section 995, subdivision (a)(1)(B) where it raised the possibility that, as instructed, the grand jury could have indicted on less than reasonable or probable cause. The court further held that based on the record, the court need not decide the question of whether willful misconduct under Government Code section 3060 required a knowing and purposeful refusal to follow the law. Stark did not disagree with the instruction on mental state given by the district attorney and accompanying PowerPoint slides invalidated the instruction on mental state, requiring that the accusation be set aside. The court addressed these claims as to the district attorney's argument and PowerPoint slides and concluded that it was without merit. The court finally held that, in a motion to set aside an indictment or accusation, a defendant claiming that the district attorney suffered from a conflict of interest during the grand jury proceeding must establish that his right to due process was violated. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "Stark v. Superior Court of Sutter County" on Justia Law
Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries
Plaintiff filed a complaint for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and breach of contract against defendants, an attorney and his law firm, where the attorney agreed to represent plaintiff in its effort to obtain approval of a redevelopment project, the attorney terminated the representation about two years later, and then the attorney became involved in a campaign to thwart the same redevelopment project by soliciting signatures on a referendum petition to overturn the city council's approval of the project. At issue was whether the court of appeals properly found that plaintiff's claims arose from protected activity in violation of the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation ("anti-SLAPP") statute, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16, and whether plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on them. The court reversed the court of appeals and held that, based on the respective showings of the parties, plaintiff's claims for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and breach of contract possessed at least minimal merit within the meaning of the anti-SLAP statute.