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Name: Jensen v. Superior Court
Case #: H048548
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/28/2021

Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion to disqualify the entire district attorney’s office because he failed to show there was a conflict of interest as to him personally. Jensen, a sheriff’s department captain, was charged with conspiracy to bribe, and bribing, an executive officer and other offenses based on evidence that he and others arranged for members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department to issue hard-to-obtain concealed firearms permits in exchange for substantial monetary donations to help the reelection campaign of the sheriff. He moved to disqualify the entire Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office because (1) he argued the DA leaked the transcript of the grand jury proceedings to the press at least four days before the transcript could be released publicly; (2) one of his codefendants was personal friends with the DA and his chief assistant; and (3) there was a dispute between the DA and sheriff about access to recordings of county jail inmate phone calls. The trial court denied the motion and Jensen filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal. Held: Petition denied. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded there was no conflict of interest under Penal Code section 1424, which governs disqualification of a prosecutor. Jensen provided only speculation to support his theory that the DA’s office was responsible for leaking the grand jury transcript and four prosecutors submitted declarations denying any involvement in the leak. The DA’s office was not the only entity with access to the transcripts. As for the codefendant’s grounds for recusing the entire DA’s office, those grounds were personal to the codefendant and there was no conflict between Jensen and the DA’s office that would support disqualification. Jensen himself did not have a personal relationship with the DA or his chief assistant. Jensen provided no evidence that he had any personal involvement in the apparent dispute between the DA and sheriff. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing. [Editor’s Note: One of the codefendants was Schumb, whose petition for writ of mandate was granted by the Court of Appeal, based on the finding of a conflict and the likelihood that he could not receive fair treatment during all portions of the criminal proceedings. (See Schumb v. Superior Court (2021) 64 Cal.App.5th 973.)]