Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills has been assigned to decide the San Francisco district attorney’s challenge for cause in crime-lab related cases.
Judge Anne-Christine Massullo has reviewed thousands of pages in camera in about 60 joined narcotics cases — all related to the evidence-tampering scandal at the San Francisco crime lab. In May, she faulted the district attorney's office for failing to produce exculpatory information about the crime lab.
The DA filed the challenge late last month, questioning Massullo’s impartialty because her husband, John Hemann, a Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner, is the court-appointed attorney for a defendant whose federal case was touched (free reg. req.) by San Francisco’s drug lab scandal.
The motion also cited a June 17 CLE panel called “Brady Disclosures: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Make it Right.” Hemann was one of the panelists.
The judge’s “harsh criticism of the district attorney’s office, her husband’s recent appearance in the public eye regarding the law surrounding Brady, and the court’s refusal to clarify any potential conflict of interest raises a question as to her ability to remain impartial in the current proceedings,” the DA argued in the motion.
In a response, Massullo earlier this month denied (.pdf) that she was biased and said the district attorney hasn't chosen to appeal her decisions but is instead trying to erase Masullo's criticisms by kicking her off the case. Massullo also said she sought an ethics opinion in May as soon as she learned about her husband’s court-appointed case.
Wills was appointed to the bench in 2008.