Office of the Chief Trial Counsel/Intake
The State Bar of California
1149 South Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-2299
July 17, 2012
RE: Unfiled Appeal by Richard Huffman & Subsequent Sentence of Defendant Burleson to 120 Days Custody
To Whom It May Concern:
On December 18th, 2011 I was convicted of brandishing a firearm in a criminal case. I consulted with numerous attorneys about possible ways to handle this conviction. I was referred to Mr. Huffman by an attorney I had a previous good experience with.
Frank Crudo told me that Mr. Huffman had recently left the employ of the San Diego County District Attorneys Office, that he was an attorney with solid credentials and that I would be well advised to consult with him.
Mr. Huffman told me that he had handled a number of misdemeanor appeals in the California Appellate Court and that my case was a compelling one and that I would be well advised to file an appeal. He told me that if I hired him, I would no longer have to feel as though I had to constantly look over the shoulder of my attorney. He told me that he had been practicing criminal law for almost twenty years and that he felt confident we would prevail on the appeal and then would be even better positioned to file a subsequent civil action against my accuser.
I was impressed by Mr. Huffmans intelligence and interest in my case. I promptly gave him a $750 retainer, followed by another $250 a few weeks thereafter with the understanding that a total of $3500 would be paid prior to the date of the appeal being heard.
I repeatedly asked Mr. Huffman if he needed anything from me, he said he did not. I asked him if he had the court transcript and repeatedly asked for a copy of same. He said he didnt have all of it but that he would work on it and not to worry, its all going to be ok.
I was assured numerous times by Mr. Huffman that the requisite paperwork had been submitted to the court (i.e. a notice of appeal). Numerous attempts to get copies of that paperwork have since been ignored (by design).
Just one night before my sentencing, Huffman called me in a panic, apologizing for the fact that someone at the courthouse had made a mistake. Dont worry though he said I dont expect any surprises tomorrow.
At this point, he still had not substituted in as the attorney of record on my case as he had committed to. I was alarmed that the sentencing was still going to be held in Judge Richard Mills courtroomas I expected Judge Mills would have already been apprised I filed an appeal and expected (per Mr. Huffman) that I would most likely remain out on bond while the appeal was pending. Huffman told me I should expect this case to take well into the summer or later to be heard by the Appellate Court.
You can only imagine the horror I felt the day I was sentenced when Huffman meets me in the corridor and laments that there really isnt anything clearly we can appeal on. I think you should take work furlough and get this over with.
Here he had had two months to order the transcript (which he never did) to evaluate the compelling basis on which to file an appeal, he didnt do it and now he suggests he is sorry but he hasnt found anything to justify filing an appeal. All the while, he told me not to worry.
I was sentenced to work furlough on 2/29/12 and began serving a 120 day sentence on 3/12/12.
Upon reflection, I realized that Mr. Huffmans story of sending the appeal paperwork to the court only to have it rejected may have been a complete fabrication. I contacted the clerks office of the Appellate Court and was told that no paperwork requesting an appeal in my case had ever been received. Further, I was told that even had there been paperwork that was returned, out of respect for the protection of due process that such a rejection would have been noted in the file.
I came to this realization AFTER the 30 day time limit on filing an appeal had passed. I then realized that considering Huffman didnt have a copy of the original transcript, he logically couldnt have been in a position to file any appeal at all.
My family and I were irreparably harmed by the fact I was away from them for nearly 3 months.
I am deeply saddened I trusted Mr. Huffman and in doing so undermined my relationship with my first attorney, Gerald Smith.
I contacted Mr. Crudo to find out the whereabouts of Mr. Huffman and was told Huffman is no longer in the employ of the Crudo Law Firm.
Please note my case is well documented. I have a detailed diary of dates and times I spoke with Mr. Huffman as well as copies of email and text correspondence wherein he assured me repeatedly that all was in order.
Mr. Huffman doesnt possess the sound judgment a competent attorney needs to protect his clients interests or the moral character to admit his own mistakes. He is a great threat to the public at large. He should not be allowed to continue to practice lawas he represents a clear and present danger.
Mr. Huffmans father is a highly regarded member of the judiciary in the State of California. The senior Mr. Huffman has been coddling his son for many years. Do I need to be concerned that this case will not be investigated fully by virtue of the undue influence? That has happened before.
This article appeared in the San Diego Reader
San Diego Five years ago, criminal defense and civil rights attorney Mary Prvost began investigating how the City and County of San Diego conducted blood draws from people suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. But when she sought documentation on the matter, she tells me from behind her cluttered desk, "The city attorney's office practically laughed in my face." Eventually she used a California Public Records Act request to discover that law enforcement agencies hired "unauthorized individuals to draw blood in [our] filthy jails."
Prior to 2004, California Vehicle Code stipulated that only doctors, nurses, clinical laboratory technologists, and other licensed medical personnel "may withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content therein." The law permitted phlebotomists to draw blood in such cases but only under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses.
But American Forensic Nurses, a company that had contracted with city and county law enforcement to conduct blood draws, found it much more economical to use unsupervised phlebotomists for the job. As a result, estimates Prvost, as many as 10,000 people suspected of drunk driving in San Diego County have had their blood drawn illegally over a period of five to eight years. "So I began litigating," she says. "In testimony, one woman said she kept her phlebotomist's supplies under a sink next to the Drano and that she only used a toothbrush to clean her vials if she saw remainders of blood in them when empty."
Last fall, 19 people who were appealing their driving-under-the-influence convictions argued in San Diego County Superior Court that the unauthorized use of phlebotomists to obtain their blood alcohol levels required that the evidence be suppressed. The appellants were represented by Prvost or one of several other attorneys. At trial, however, all their "motions to suppress" were denied.
In the meantime, San Diego law enforcement officials had been getting worried. As early as summer 2001, they began seeking a legislative change to make their use of unsupervised phlebotomists legal, without, according to Prvost, discontinuing it in the meantime. On July 25, 2001, San Diego Police Department criminalist Patricia Lough e-mailed deputy city attorney Shannon Thomas addressing the problem. "Steve Aronis from the [district attorney's] office is pressuring me," she said, "to get a meeting together [as soon as possible]...to write a legislative change regarding the phlebotomy laws.... He is having many problems in court related to this issue." In 2004, Assemblyman Phil Wyman, Republican from Tehachapi, maneuvered a bill through the California legislature permitting licensed, but unsupervised, phlebotomists to perform the blood draws in drunk driving cases.
The new law was not in place at the time Mary Prvost and the other attorneys entered the motions to suppress blood evidence in their clients' cases. All 19 cases were consolidated to appear before California's Fourth Appellate District Court in San Diego. There, according to the court's written opinion filed on May 12 of this year, justices heard testimony from an expert for the county that "the length of time phlebotomists left tourniquets on patients, the storage of their equipment, [whether they used] gloves and...washed their hands...[were not] medically significant."
But during oral arguments, according to Prvost, several justices upbraided the city attorney for initially refusing to give her documentation of the city's practices. And the court granted that the city's and county's use of unsupervised phlebotomists to draw blood had been illegal. Even so, it denied that the appellants' Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated or that their right to due process of law had been lost. The lower court's decision was upheld.
On the question of equal protection under the law, the court was especially adamant, arguing that the appellants had no legitimate complaints, despite the fact that other defendants in California may not have had their blood drawn by unauthorized personnel. "Here," reads the court's opinion, "the sole circumstance which made the appellants subject to prosecution was behavior which gave law enforcement agencies reason to suspect the appellants had been driving under the influence of alcohol."
Midway through the appeals deliberation, on March 29, Prvost filed a motion requesting that Justice Richard Huffman and the entire appellate panel recuse themselves from the case. "The basis of this motion," she wrote, "is that Justice Huffman's son, Richard Huffman, II, was given a substantial legal benefit in a criminal case by the City Attorney of San Diego, a party opposing Appellants in this case. Neither the City Attorney, nor Justice Huffman, advised Appellants of the potential conflict prior to argument." Prvost went on to note that the mere appearance of a conflict of interest has always warranted recusal.
Shortly after midnight on April 25, 2004, Richard Dennis Huffman, 45, was stopped on Gilman Drive in La Jolla by California Highway Patrol officer G. Mendes. Huffman is a deputy district attorney for San Diego County. Two preliminary alcohol-screening-device tests indicated he had blood alcohol levels of .135 percent and .137 percent. Huffman was arrested and, at a highway patrol office shortly afterward, two breath tests showed his blood alcohol levels to be .09 percent and .10 percent. (The legal limit is .08 percent.) Officer Mendes wrote in his report of the incident: "I recommend that a copy of this report and other related documents be forwarded to the San Diego City Attorney's office for prosecution of Huffman" on drunk driving charges.
Yet the accused was released into his father's care only an hour later, at 2:05 a.m. Mary Prvost wonders why it was Justice Huffman who went to pick up his son. "Wouldn't a 45-year-old man living on his own," she asks, "have his girlfriend or one of his friends come to get him? And how often does anyone arrested for drunk driving receive the 'cite and release' treatment immediately after arrest?"
The senior Huffman and his fellow justices declined on March 30 to recuse themselves from the blood-draw appeal case. In defense of his decision, Huffman wrote, "I became aware [of the situation] on April 25, 2004, when my son called me from the [California Highway Patrol] office. I was advised he would be released if my wife and I would pick him up. I appeared at the office and signed the [required] form. I did not advise anyone at the station of my position or title.... In my view, the fact that an adult child had a legal problem, which was resolved without any involvement by me, does not create a conflict or the appearance of conflict in the mind of any person aware of the facts."
Mr. Huffmans ability to escape culpability from that DUI arrest is indicative of a rules dont apply to me attitude that seems to overlap into his professional life as well.
I believe this matter warrants a full and complete investigation by the California State Bar Association post-haste. He has brought shame and embarrassment on the profession and immeasurable pain and sadness to my family.
Can you really afford to let a rogue like Mr. Huffman continue and risk the safety of others in the community? I trusted him implicitlyand my trust was rewarded with a jail sentence which he assured me would NOT be an issue.