Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/26/2010 06:08:07 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – A lawyer for former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin is seeking to recuse the Superior Court judge hearing Erwin’s case because the judge once belonged to the same private law firm as a lawyer representing District Attorney Michael A. Ramos.

Lawyer Rajan Maline said Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court that he learned Thursday night that Judge Duke Rouse was a former partner of lawyer Richard Marca, who represents Ramos.

The news came during a scheduled court appearance for Erwin, who faces charges stemming his alleged failure to report about $15,000 in gifts from Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in January 2007 for his assistance in helping to negotiate the $102 million settlement of a land use dispute between Colonies Partners LP and the county.

Rouse said he worked at the law firm Gresham, Savage, Nolan and Tilden from 1990 to 2004, and he did not believe a recusal was warranted. He denied Maline’s request to recuse himself.

“I don’t think there’s any basis to do so,” Rouse said during the proceedings.

Maline intends to a file a motion under the Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.1 by Apr. 9 to recuse the judge because of the appearance of a conflict. Rouse said a ruling would not likely occur before June, because the motion would be sent to a judge in another county for review and a decision.

The motion, if filed, would also suspend the proceedings in the case, until a ruling was made, the judge said.

Prosecutors were concerned about the delay.

“I’m concerned about the manner that this has been brought before us at this late date,” Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope told the court.

Erwin is charged with 10 felony counts of perjury. Maline has said in the past that he believes Erwin was selectively targeted by Ramos and the District Attorney’s Office.

In the meantime, Rouse plans to ask Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell to select another judge to review evidence seized during a search warrant served March 18 at the Temecula office of Erwin’s civil lawyer Alan Mohill. An announcement will be made Monday.

Mohill is not alleged to have committed any crime.

Rouse was expected to announce plans Friday for reviewing the seized evidence, which included three white boxes of documents and three disk drives sealed by a special master because of possible privileged information, before turning it over to prosecutors.

The special master, who is also a lawyer, was needed because the target of the search involved the office of a lawyer. The special master goes along on the warrant service and seals the documents that are collected pending further review.

The investigation into county corruption and the Colonies settlement remains open and ongoing, Ramos has said.

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