Jenkins alleges bias against prosecution
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ office has used a state law on judicial impartiality to remove Juvenile Court Judge J. Anthony Kline from four juvenile cases assigned to him, alleging that Kline is biased against the prosecution, reported the San Francisco Chronicle Oct. 20.
The judicial removal law Jenkins’ office used does not require a statement of reason for the removal of the judge. In addition, both the judge and the defense may not object or even demand an explanation for its use. The case simply goes to one of the other two Juvenile Court judges, according to the Chronicle.
“We’re seeing the District Attorney’s Office do a blanket challenge on Judge Kline for all new cases coming into the system,” said Emily Goldman, the managing attorney for the Youth Defender Unit in Public Defender Mano Raju’s office. “I don’t know why they are doing it, but I think it’s very unfortunate.”
The judicial removal law “may be used for judge shopping,” said state Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, but also affords both sides “an extraordinary right to disqualify a judge” in criminal and in civil cases. State Supreme Court Justice Matthew Tobringer used much stronger language, saying that the law “seriously undermines the principle of judicial independence,” the Chronicle said.
Jenkins recently reversed a policy of former District Attorney Chesa Boudin by announcing her office is willing to prosecute 16 and 17-year-olds as adults if they commit “egregious crimes.”
“We are declining to comment on these matters as they pertain to proceedings involving juvenile defendants, which are confidential,” said Randy Quezada, a spokesperson for Jenkins’ office. The district attorney’s office has declined to discuss the use of the law and has not even confirmed its application. Judge Kline has also declined to comment.
Deputy District Attorney David Mitchell alleged in a sworn declaration to the court that Kline “is prejudiced against the (prosecution).” Mitchell further alleged that the district attorney’s office “cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing,” according to the Chronicle.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, a former San Francisco prosecutor and chief assistant district attorney, said that in his tenure, his office “never blanket-challenged a judge.”
“I think some explanation ought to be provided to the citizens,” Breyer said in the Chronicle article.
Kline’s 42 years of service began as a juvenile judge from 1980 to 1981, before former Gov. Jerry Brown, for whom Kline had worked as a legal affairs secretary, appointed Kline to the appellate court. Kline later served as the senior presiding justice of the First District Court of Appeal, from which he retired last December. In February, Kline agreed to serve as a Juvenile Court judge for one year.
Sidney Holler, a lawyer who belongs to a group that defends juveniles if lawyers from the Youth Defender Unit cannot take a case, called Kline “one of the top jurists in our state, if not our country. I don’t see how the DA can say in good faith that [Kline] can’t be fair and impartial. … It’s really wrong and unfair.”