Adachi seeks to remove judge from murder case over alleged racial bias

Public Defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday sought to remove a judge from the murder trial of a tenant-rights attorney over a racially insensitive comment that the judge allegedly made to a Latina defense attorney.

Adachi filed the motion against Judge Ethan Schulman in the trial of Carlos Argueta, a 34-year-old man accused of drunkenly stabbing a man to death outside a Vietnamese restaurant on Sixth Street on Sept. 3, 2015.

Adachi is seeking to prevent Schulman from hearing a motion he filed to dismiss the case against Argueta for allegedly stabbing 61-year-old James “Rick” Thomas outside Tu Lan Vietnamese restaurant.

SEE RELATED: Tenants’ rights lawyer denied release after being recharged for murder

A different judge previously dismissed the case against Argueta, but a grand jury indicted him on murder last year.

Elizabeth Camacho, a deputy public defender, claims in the motion that Schulman asked her, “When is this telenovela going to end?”

Schulman allegedly made the comment in chambers reference to her opening statement in an unrelated trial.

“I have tried dozens of jury trials in the seven years that I have practiced, and never had a judge treat me as Judge Schulman did during trial,” Camacho wrote in a declaration. “I believe his treatment of me during the trial is the direct result of bias against me because of my ethnic background and that of my client’s.”

The motion also claims that Schulman is biased toward defense attorneys. Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young in the motion described his demeanor as “disdainful” toward defendants and defense attorneys.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Superior Court declined to comment.

Schulman has 10 days to decide whether to accept, contest or dismiss the motion, according to a spokesperson for the Public Defender’s Office.

This is not the first time Adachi has challenged judges. Last December, he called Judge Ross Moody a “schoolyard bully” for holding a deputy public defender who ignored an order in contempt of court.

Adachi appealed the contempt order against attorney John Paul Passaglia, who tried to stop sheriff’s deputies from detaining his client in court, but both the state appeals court and the California Supreme Court have ruled against him.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Michael Barba
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