Judge gets pop star assignment – Santa Barbara News Press

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December 23, 2003 Judge gets pop star assignment By DAWN HOBBS NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville, who has handled everything from petty theft to murder cases during 16 years on the bench, was assigned Monday to handle the Michael Jackson case. Presiding Superior Court Judge Clifford R. Anderson chose Judge Melville to hear all court proceedings including any trial, which authorities say could last several months. Mr. Jackson is scheduled for arraignment Jan. 16 at the Santa Maria courthouse on seven counts of committing a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to enable him to commit child molestation. His attorney, Mark Geragos, has maintained the performer’s innocence. Judge Melville could not be reached for comment Monday. “On a case like Michael Jackson, there is no standard protocol,” said Gary Blair, executive officer of the Santa Barbara County Superior Courts. “So the presiding judge used his authority and discretion to pick the judge he thought would be best qualified to handle it. In an average case, we do random drawings. But there is obviously nothing average about the logistics and time that will be involved in this case. I would anticipate it to go on for several months and would expect a lot of motions on each side.” Judge Melville, who is the assistant presiding judge, has extensive experience in criminal, civil, family law and probate matters. He began his legal career as a prosecutor in San Bernardino County in the late 1960s before moving to Santa Maria in 1971 and becoming a prominent criminal defense and civil attorney. In 1987, Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to the Santa Barbara County Municipal Court bench. In 1990, Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to Superior Court. Mr. Blair and several criminal defense attorneys said Judge Melville is the right choice for the high-profile case. Prosecutors from the Santa Maria Division of the District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment Monday. “He’s extremely fair, extremely knowledgeable,” said Mr. Blair. “He’s handled everything in criminal case law from petty theft to death-penalty murder cases.” “I don’t think you’ll find him being prosecution-minded or defense-minded,” said criminal defense attorney Steve Balash. “He’s not an imposing figure and very soft-spoken, but he does run his courtroom. They will not take it away from him.” Mr. Balash, who has had numerous cases in Judge Melville’s courtroom, said: “I’ve never heard any complaints from the criminal bar about him. He doesn’t rubber-stamp deals. A lot of times, people make a deal with the DA and the judge just says OK. But Melville lets you know he is the judge and he will make the final decision…. He follows the rules.” Judge Melville made the news last year when he ruled on a controversial Guadalupe case involving a voter-approved measure requiring certain city officials to live within the city. The judge ruled that the initiative was unconstitutional and violated the state government code. Also Monday, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon instructed Mr. Jackson to surrender his passport unless he supplies “documented confirmation” that he plans on traveling to England this week to promote his new CD. Mr. Sneddon’s demand was made in a faxed letter to Mr. Jackson’s attorney, Mark Geragos. London’s Sun newspaper reported Sunday that Mr. Jackson had pulled out of a planned Christmas tour. But Mr. Jackson’s spokesman, Stuart Backerman, on Monday said that he believed the trip was still on. Source: http://www.sbcoast.com/mjacksonupdate/1123judge.htm

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