MJ RELATED: Hall\'s arraignment was a judicial rarity - Diana Hall

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MJ RELATED: Hall\'s arraignment was a judicial rarity - Diana Hall

Post by whisper » Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:45 pm

Hall's arraignment was a judicial rarity

Judges who preside over arraignments are common.

Judges who show up as defendants at arraignments are uncommon.

As a defendant, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall has now experienced two arraignments on criminal charges. That's a rarity in judicial circles anywhere.

Breezing through the hallway early Monday morning, defendant Hall arrived at her most recent arraignment in the very court complex where she continues to pick up a paycheck as a judge.

This phenomenon adds to the growing dazzle that's already making county court officials blink from the world-wide glare of the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.

But the harsh blaze of media attention won't convict or acquit Hall.

Only a jury now has the power to decide her fate on eight misdemeanor charges related to alleged campaign finance violations.

Still, all the attention can only help Hall's lawyer, who plans to ask the state attorney general's office to take over the case because prosecutors in the district attorney's office are biased against his 54-year-old client.

In court Monday, visiting judge John J. Ryan said he wasn't up on the details.

"I don't know anything about the case," said the retired Orange County Superior Court judge.

After working California courtrooms for many years, though, he had a gut feeling about Michael Scott's motivation.

"Vindictive prosecution?" Ryan asked.

"I didn't use that word, but, yes," Scott said.

Join the crowd.

Nowadays, people as diverse as superstar Jackson and former Santa Maria City Attorney Art Montandon are making serious accusations against District Attorney Tom Sneddon and his staff.

A county jury last year acquitted Lompoc lawyer Gary Dunlap after Sneddon's office charged him with a variety of felonies that could have ruined his legal career and put him behind bars for years. Dunlap has filed a federal lawsuit that alleges a pattern of abuse by Sneddon and company.

Other people are making similar claims.

One man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said one of Jackson's private investigators has already interviewed him about being targeted by representatives of the district attorney's office. The man said he would welcome a subpoena to testify as a defense witness in the Jackson trial.

Maybe Hall will testify, too.

After all, Hall did show up unannounced at Jackson's January arraignment and made a scene when court officials asked her to leave.

A Superior Court spokesman later called the incident "a judicial personnel matter" and declined further comment on Hall's behavior.

And Dunlap already lists Hall as a defense witness in his federal suit against the district attorney's office.

If that's not a conflict for Sneddon, I don't know what is.

Attorney Scott has already mentioned Hall's role in the Dunlap case as one good reason why the attorney general's office should take over the prosecution of the Hall case.

No wonder Hall seemed in good spirits yesterday as she stood by her lawyer's side and agreed to a Sept. 13 jury trial. After court, she gave her lawyer a big smile before walking the short distance to her chambers.

However, Hall's most recent crisis once again puts Judge Rodney Melville - who's hearing the Jackson case and who's Hall's boss here in the North County - in an annoying position.

Melville, the county's assistant presiding judge who will become the presiding judge in January, last year reassigned Hall to hear civil cases after her acquittal on felony gun-related domestic violence charges.

The current charges stem from Hall's testimony at that trial.

Prosecutors allege that Hall failed to report a $20,000 campaign loan she received from her female domestic partner. Hall documented the loan as if she had made it to herself in order to cover her lesbian relationship, prosecutors allege.

I don't know if Hall did what prosecutors say she did.

I also don't know what Melville will do if Hall shows up at another Jackson legal proceeding. If she does, though, unlike her last appearance, she'll probably have legitimate reason to be there.

Judges who show up as willing witnesses always testify with purpose.

* Steve Corbett's column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 739-2215 or e-mailed at scorbett@pulitzer.net. Read Corbett online at [url="http://]www.santamariatimes.com[/url]. July 13, 2004

SOURCE: [url="http://]http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/20...ett/corbett.txt[/url]

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