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Name: Schumb v. Superior Court
Case #: H048532
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/28/2021
Summary

Trial court erred by failing to disqualify the entire district attorney’s office from prosecuting defendant based on a conflict of interest. Schumb was charged with conspiracy to bribe, and bribing, an executive officer 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. Schumb moved to disqualify the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting him, arguing that his friendship with both the elected DA and the DA’s chief assistant created a conflict of interest. He presented evidence related to the friendships, including that (1) Schumb had raised campaign funds for the DA; (2) the DA had asked Schumb intervene in a professional dispute between the DA and the sheriff; (3) the DA had sought Schumb’s opinion on various matters, including his opinion about alleged criminal activity by a government official; (4) Schumb intended to call the DA and the chief assistant as both character and fact witnesses; (5) the DA’s office had prevented him from fully investigating the extent of the DA’s involvement in the case by refusing to produce documents on the basis of attorney work product; and (6) the DA and his chief assistant were still involved in the prosecution against him and had not set up any sort of ethical wall inside the office. The trial court denied the motion. Schumb filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal. Held: Writ of mandate issued. The Court of Appeal determined that there was a conflict within the meaning of Penal Code section 1424 of such a nature as to render it unlikely that Schumb will receive fair treatment during all portions of the criminal proceedings. The facts in the record create a strong incentive for the DA’s office to aggressively prosecute Schumb to distance the DA from any taint associated with reelection money raised by Schumb and to avoid the appearance of favoritism toward a friend and campaign contributor. An office-wide disqualification is required in this case.