New legislation by Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) to simplify the process for removing a public official from office for willful or corrupt misconduct in office today received bipartisan support from the California Senate Standing Committee on Public Safety. The committee voted unanimously, 5-0, to advance the bill, SB 1357. Current law is unclear as to whether an accusation should be presented by a civil grand jury or a criminal grand jury. SB 1357 would remove ambiguity in the law and make the responsibility of presenting an accusation to a criminal grand jury.
“District attorneys should have a clear path to prosecute a corrupt public official. They should not have to worry about their case being thrown out because of a procedural error or wasting valuable time and money in the wrong court,” said Senator Cannella. “We must make it easier for district attorneys to do their jobs so those that violate our public trust are brought to justice.”
In the 1970s, appellate courts began dismissing rulings made by specially selected civil grand juries, deeming accusations to be criminal in nature. However, in 1993, the Attorney General opined that criminal grand juries could not handle civil matters. Thus, if an accusation was found to be a civil matter, the ruling from a criminal grand jury could be dismissed.
“I applaud Senator Cannella for taking on this important legislation. As a district attorney, it is frustrating to have the law unclear,” said Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo. “This bill will solve the problem now rather than risk years of litigation and expense to settle the issue through the courts.”
Following today’s Public Safety Committee vote, the bill will be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.