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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 2000, before his election as county attorney of Lamar County, Gary D. Young was in private practice. In that capacity he defended Goodman in a prosecution for driving while intoxicated in Lamar County. In the course of that representation, Goodman told Young “how many beers I drink a day[.]” Goodman was convicted of driving while intoxicated on Sept. 12, 2000. After he was elected, Young obtained a subsequent indictment against Goodman, charging him with felony DWI, allegedly committed on Feb. 1, 2006. One of the two prior DWI convictions alleged for purposes of elevating this most recent alleged DWI to felony status was a September 2000 conviction in which Young had represented Goodman. Goodman filed a pretrial motion in which he asked the trial court to order Young to disqualify himself from prosecuting Goodman on the grounds that they had previously shared an attorney-client relationship. The trial court conducted a brief hearing on the motion on Sept. 19, 2006. Young testified at the hearing that he neither sought nor obtained Goodman’s permission to prosecute him. He took the position that the fact of Goodman’s prior conviction for DWI was a matter of public record that he could easily prove up without resort to any confidential communications or any information he might have obtained as a product of his representation of Goodman. “As far as the facts of the case,” he assured the trial court, “none of that is going to be used.” The trial court denied Goodman’s motion. Goodman filed an application for writ of mandamus in the 6th Court of Appeals. In that application, he sought to have the 6th Court order the trial court to issue an order disqualifying Young from prosecuting him. The 6th Court ordered mandamus relief. The 6th Court acknowledged that a trial court only has authority to order a prosecutor to disqualify himself based upon a conflict of interest so substantial as to rise “to the level of a due-process violation.” A defendant’s due process rights, the 6th Court stated, are violated when an attorney represents a client and then participates in the prosecution of that client in the same matter or another matter with a substantial relationship to the first. The 6th Court concluded that on the facts presented, Goodman’s due-process rights were violated. Though Young did not propose to represent the state in the same matter as he had previously represented Goodman, he did propose to represent the state in another matter with a substantial relationship to the first. Moreover, the 6th Court found this violation of due process to be so “inescapable” as to warrant mandamus relief. Young sought mandamus relief from the CCA from the judgment of the 6th Court. HOLDING:The CCA conditionally granted the writ of mandamus. The CCA began by noting that the 6th Court of Appeals announced the following legal proposition in granting the writ of mandamus in favor of Goodman: “[A] disqualification should occur only when (1) the underlying proceeding [i.e., the case prosecutor is currently prosecuting against his former client] is so substantially related to real and actual disclosures (as opposed to theoretical discussions) that occurred during the previous attorney-client relationship, and (2) there exists a genuine threat that disclosure of these confidential communications will either materially advance the State’s case or drastically undermine the accused’s ability to mount a defense-such that this advancement or undermining rises to the level of a due-process violation.” The CCA deemed the 6th Court’s opinion to be a “lengthy and thoughtful opinion,” but found that the 6th Court gleaned its rule from a number of somewhat “disparate and precatory” authorities. While the 6th Court’s rule, the CCA stated, “may well ultimately prove the appropriate rule of law in criminal cases, it is not the only rational alternative, and it is certainly not, as the court of appeals characterized it, ‘inescapable.’” Thus, the CCA did not find that the rule announced by the 6th Court was of such indubitable provenance that the trial court in this case had a ministerial duty to apply it to the facts of this case to reach a particular result in the exercise of what would otherwise constitute a manifestly judicial function. Even if the trial court abused its discretion in carrying out that judicial function, such an error does not by itself justify mandamus relief, the CCA stated. OPINION:Price, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court.

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