Grand Jury Rights: A Significant Victory in the Court of Appeal

 

The Third District Court of Appeal handed down an opinion which represented a significant victory for one of the firm's clients and for all people accused by secret Grand Jury proceedings.
 
On August 15, 2000, six years of fighting on behalf of their client paid off with a strongly worded published opinion by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento.  Robert Sanger and counsel for co-defendants litigated the case in the Sacramento Superior Court leading to a dismissal of six felony counts alleging Anti-Trust violations and perjury. The government appealed the dismissal to the State Court of Appeal and Mr. Sanger along with other members of the firm briefed the case on appeal.  The firm argued the case before the appellate justices along with Sacramento lawyers Blackmon & Snelings and Segal & Kirby representing  co-defendants in addition to one co-defendant who argued in propria persona. 
 
The case was originally charged by way of a felony complaint in 1994 by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California.  After significant litigation, the case went to a preliminary hearing before Judge Hake of the Sacramento Superior Court.  On the sixth day of preliminary hearing Judge Hake excluded the testimony of the government's purported expert witness who offered to testify that price fixing had occurred.  The Court found that the information relied upon by the purported expert was not reliable and could not form the basis of an expert opinion.  On the seventh day, the government agreed that they did not have sufficient evidence without the purported expert and moved to dismiss the case.
 
Nevertheless, the Attorney General's Office proceeded to a secret Grand Jury session where neither the former defendants nor their lawyers were allowed and where no judge was present.  They offered essentially the same evidence to the Grand Jurors and persuaded them to sign the government's pre-typed Indictment.
 
During the next few years, Mr. Sanger and Mr. Snellings lead the defense team in a vigorous law and motion strategy litigating issues relating to improper Grand Jury procedures, the withholding by the government of documents and discovery, the illegality of the searches in which the defendant's houses and offices were ransacked, and the denial of due process of law.  Ultimately, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Richard Park granted a motion declaring the searches and seizures to be illegal in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  He then allowed counsel to reopen motions to dismiss the Indictment on the grounds that the government had presented illegally seized evidence to the Grand Jury and on the further grounds that the Grand Jury proceedings violated the defendant's rights to Due Process of Law.
 
The government appealed and, after extensive briefing and argument, the Third District Court of Appeal rendered a published Opinion.  The Court upheld Judge Park's decision dismissing the Anti-trust allegations.  In so doing, the Court wrote a strongly worded Opinion also upholding the rights of all persons accused by a Grand Jury.  The full text of the Opinion of the Court can be read here.