Pubdate: Tue, 29 Feb 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author: Maline Hazle
Bookmark: MAP's link to California articles is:


Refusal Round Robin Sparked By Medicinal Marijuana Case

All nine Shasta County Superior Court judges either have been disqualified
or have declined to hear a contempt of court action brought against Sheriff
Jim Pope by an acquitted medicinal marijuana patient.

Judge Andy Anderson, who usually presides over juvenile court, was the last
of the nine to decline to hear the case, Shasta County Court Administrator
Susan Knoll said late Monday.

Knoll's office has asked the state Judicial Council to assign an outside
judge to the case.

Judges started pulling back from the case last week after Presiding
Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman said he could not decide the matter
since he is involved in continuing discussions and negotiations with the
sheriff over the planned merger of the county marshal's office with the
Sheriff's Department.

The marshals provide court security and act as bailiffs.

Sparking the refusal round robin is a contempt action filed Feb. 3 by
Redding attorney Eric Berg, who in December won an acquittal on a
cultivation of marijuana for sale charge against Eric Levin, 49, of

Berg then asked Boeckman, who presided over Levin's trial, to order the
return of Levin's guns, dead marijuana plants and 1 pounds of marijuana
seized by deputies at the start of the case.

Boeckman did so but Pope and Undersheriff Larry Schaller, saying that the
order was confusing, sought clarification. Boeckman issued a second order
to return the marijuana Jan 14.

But when Berg and Levin arrived at the sheriff's office Jan. 21, they were
told that a federal agent armed with a seizure order had just confiscated
Berg's marijuana.

Boeckman pulled himself from the contempt case Feb. 23. Assistant Presiding
Judge James Ruggiero earlier had been disqualified from Berg's criminal
trial at Berg's request, so was disqualified on the contempt action as

Next in line was Superior Court Judge Steven Jahr, who is married to County
Counsel Karen Jahr. She represents Pope, which forced her husband's
withdrawal from the action.

Also disqualified, for reasons that were not immediately available, were
Judges Gregory Caskey and Richard McEachen.

Judges Wilson Curle, Anderson, Monica Balavage and William Gallagher all
removed themselves from the case with identically worded memos citing
negotiations with Pope over the marshal's office and saying they feared
''that a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that
this court would be able to be impartial.''

''I don't think anyone wants to be in the hot seat,'' Berg said Monday
afternoon when he was told that an outside judge would be assigned.

John Loomis, the county attorney who is directly handling Pope's case,
declined to comment.

Berg said he is disappointed that Boeckman removed himself from the case
because he presided over the trial and knew precisely what happened with
his order to return the marijuana.

''Basically they (the sheriff and the district attorney) abused our
trust,'' Berg said. ''Sometimes on paper, things don't look the same.''

Berg had said last week that without Boeckman he hoped to get an
out-of-county judge

''I can understand why they all don't want to hear the case because they
have to work with the sheriff,'' Berg said of the other judges Monday.
''I'm not critical of any of them.''

Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or at  ---
MAP posted-by: Eric Ernst