Friday, March 31, 2006

People v. Navarro (Cal. Ct. App. - March 30, 2006)

When a lawyer unethically rats out her own client and provides the police with confidential information, can the government use such evidence at trial? Justice Rubin says "Yes".

I previously commented on this case -- both on this blog and in the press -- when it first came out in August of 2005. I disagreed with its conclusion then, and continue to disagree. Particularly on the facts of this case, in which the police debriefed the lawyer in 10-40 separate telephone conversations, all of which were designed to further the lawyer's unethical delivery of confidential information.

Justice Rubin subsequently granted a rehearing, and somewhat changed the analysis contained in his opnion. But he nonetheless comes out the same way in the end. It's okay. The government can use the evidence.

Justice Rubin actually writes a well-crafted opinion here. It's very well-written, and it does an excellent job of advancing his position. Nonetheless, on the merits, I still think it's wrong.

The Navarros will have a pretty good federal habeas petition (assuming that the California Supreme Court doesn't take the case, which I doubt they will). Indeed, before AEDPA, they might even have won. Nowadays, however, with the mandatory federal deference towards (even silly) state factual factfinding, the prospects for winning such a petition are much lower. Plus, of course, they'll be in prison the whole time.

Sorry about that. Blame your lawyer. "Not our fault".