Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stanislaus County: Grand jury suits moving along

by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator

A federal judge has granted Stanislaus County’s motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed against it by Annette Smith, but the Patterson city councilwoman said she would stand her ground.

Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ruled this week in Sacramento that Smith’s original court documents were too vague and insufficient. Smith has 30 days, until Feb. 24, to amend her complaint and provide more details.

She said this week that she was comfortable with the judge’s ruling.

“I looked at the judge’s order. He wants me to add some meat to my claims,” she said. “I have no problem doing that. I am absolutely confident going back and adding meat.”

The original complaint for damages — filed in U.S. District Federal Court in Sacramento against the County of Stanislaus and as many as 20 unidentified defendants — sought an injunction against the grand jury to stop further alleged abuse of authority and publication of transcripts from the investigation. The suit also called for the jury to revise its findings and sought unspecified damages and attorney fees.

Smith claimed in the suit that her rights as a citizen were violated.

Logan’s case delayed until April

A hearing Friday, Jan. 27, in the civil contempt case against former Patterson City Attorney George Logan was postponed until April 3 in Stanislaus Superior Court because of four motions he filed.

Logan has recently filed motions in addition to asking for a continuance to unseal court documents, which he says he has not been able to review.

He also filed an affidavit of prejudice alleging the entire county judiciary is biased against him, and has requested change of venue. Judge William Mayhew will make a decision April 3 on these motions.

“I think we need to get some fresh eyes on this issue,” Logan said last month.

The civil grand jury is seeking a contempt-of-court charge against Logan for speaking and writing in local newspapers last spring about his testimony in front of the grand jury during an investigation into Patterson City Council dealings. If he were found in contempt, the charge could carry a $1,000 fine or possible jail time, as well as court costs and opposing counsel’s attorney fees.

An affidavit signed by former Grand Jury Foreman Denis France accused Logan of violating an oath and admonition to secrecy, as well as insulting the grand jury.

Logan has cited previous court cases in arguing that he was not legally bound to secrecy, because there was no clear and present danger to the jury’s proceedings.

Logan said after the hearing Friday that he expected his case to be moved to a judge outside of the county.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

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