Based on the reasoning in Solberg v. Superior Court (1977) 19 Cal.3d 182, a district attorney may disqualify a particular trial judge in every murder case (Code Civ. Proc., § 170.6) even though the blanket challenge substantially disrupts the trial court’s operations. In a 2012 murder case, Judge Goethals found that Orange County law enforcement officers had improperly used a jail house snitch and that the district attorney committed Brady violations. The judge granted a motion to disqualify the district attorney’s office. Thereafter, the district attorney began moving to disqualify the judge in every new murder case using peremptory challenges under section 170.6. In this case, the court denied the district attorney’s section 170.6 challenge on the basis that the district attorney’s blanket challenges were interfering with the court’s orderly administration of justice, concluding that “[t]o allow a party to manipulate the court into removing a judge from hearing certain criminal caseswhen that judge, in the performance of his judicial duties, has conducted a hearing which exposed that same party’s misconductnot only goes to the very cornerstone of our society: the rule of law, but would be a concession against judicial independence.” The district attorney filed a writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal. Held: Peremptory writ issued. In Solberg, a district attorney moved to disqualify a judge in numerous prostitution cases, apparently based on the prosecution’s discontent with prior rulings. The California Supreme Court concluded that section 170.6 is not unconstitutional despite the prosecution’s abusive use of the use of the statute. Although there are compelling reasons why the Supreme Court should revisit and overrule Solberg, the Court of Appeal felt constrained to follow it under Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450, 455-456.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/G052932.PDF