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Name: People v. Pomar (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 504
Case #: A167241
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 09/13/2023

Trial courts did not abuse their discretion by recusing the S.F. District Attorney’s Office from two cases where it was shown that the conduct of any attorney assigned to the cases would likely be influenced by the District Attorney’s conflict of interest. Jenkins, an assistant district attorney (ADA) at the time, left the S.F. District Attorney’s Office to join the campaign to recall Boudin, the then S.F. District Attorney. Soon after leaving the Office, Jenkins spoke to a reporter about a homicide case in which the victim was her husband’s cousin, criticizing the Office for its lax approach in prosecuting defendants Mitchell and Pomar. After Boudin was recalled, Jenkins became the District Attorney. The trial courts in both Mitchell’s and Pomar’s cases granted defendants’ motions to disqualify the entire Office from prosecuting the cases. The People appealed, arguing that the “ethical wall” instituted by the Office negated any need for recusal. Held: Affirmed. Under Penal Code section 1424, a motion to recuse the district attorney may not be granted unless the evidence shows that a conflict of interest exists that would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial. Recusal of an entire prosecuting office requires a showing that any deputy district attorney assigned to the case would likely be influenced by the conflict of interest. Here, it was reasonable for the trial courts to conclude that any plea bargaining or sentencing recommendations by the ADAs in the Office may be consciously or unconsciously affected by Jenkins’s conflict to a degree rendering it unlikely that Mitchell and Pomar would receive a fair trial. The ADAs in the Office were aware of Jenkins’ personal interests in the cases, her public statements that harshly criticized how the Office had been handling the cases, and her broad authority over their employment.