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FALSELY ACCUSING COP IS A CRIME, SAYS COURT The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a state law making it a crime to file a false allegation of misconduct against a peace officer. In an 18-page ruling by Justice Ming Chin, the high court unanimously declared constitutional Penal Code �148.6, which makes false statements against officers a misdemeanor. The decision overturns an appeal court ruling that had declared the law unconstitutional because it selectively protected only police officers. “Just as the government may criminalize only threats of violence against a specific victim, the president, so, too, may the Legislature criminalize only knowingly false accusations against a class of victims, peace officers,” Chin wrote. The justice noted that complaining about police misconduct is a “quintessential right” in the United States. “But,” he wrote, “that is not what is afoot here. The Legislature is not suppressing all complaints of police misconduct, only knowingly false ones.” At trial, Shaun Stanistreet and Barbara Joyce Atkinson were found guilty of filing false statements after accusing an Oxnard police officer of lewd conduct. The case is People v. Stanistreet, 02 C.D.O.S. 11744 .Mike McKee COURT LOOKS AT PLEA BARGAINS AND JUDGES The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will sit en banc to decide the limits of a judge’s discretion to reject plea agreements. The court agreed Thursday to rehear In re: Ellis, 01-70724. A three-judge panel had unanimously agreed that a federal judge in Washington state was within his rights to reject a murder suspect’s 11-year plea agreement as too lenient, a move which forced the defendant to go to trial. Sixteen-year-old Marciano Ellis killed 46-year-old cab driver Donald Ray Barker in Fort Lewis, Wash. He was indicted as an adult on first-degree murder charges. U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner of the Western District of Washington rejected a plea to a second-degree murder charge, saying justice “hasn’t been done in this case, the way it stands now. I think the matter should go to a jury.” Both Ellis’ lawyer and the assistant U.S. attorney asked Tanner to reconsider. Both took similar positions when the case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit. In particular, the AUSA argued that Tanner exceeded his authority and infringed on the prosecutor’s right to decide how to charge cases. The Ninth Circuit panel had ruled that Tanner had the authority to insist the case go to trial. No date has been set for the argument. — Jason Hoppin PENINSULA SOLO WINS SEAT ON BAR BOARD Vivian Kral, a longtime Bar activist, won election Thursday to the State Bar Board of Governors, defeating a vocal Bar critic and two other opponents. Kral, 48, collected 1,882 votes — about 53 percent of those cast — to defeat Boalt Hall School of Law professor Stephen Barnett, Emeryville solo practitioner Michael Schmier and San Mateo solo Michael Gabriel for the District Three seat representing Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Barnett, who has frequently jousted with the State Bar, got 1,101 votes (about 31 percent), Schmier received 330 votes (9 percent), and Gabriel wound up with 260 votes (7 percent). Only 3,587 lawyers, out of 20,253 ballots mailed out, voted — a response rate of only 17.5 percent. Kral, a Redwood City solo who got her law degree from Boalt Hall in 1978, campaigned on making the State Bar more sensitive to the needs of solos and on ensuring that Bar prosecutors are selective in whom they pursue for discipline reasons. She also said she would like to see Bar dues lowered if possible. “I am thrilled and honored to be elected,” Kral said Thursday. “I want to give a lot of credit to all the people in the bar associations of District Three that supported me. I had a lot of endorsements, and I was happy to see that there was that much support out there and interest in what’s going on in the State Bar.” — Mike McKee

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