The Sacramento Superior Court judge presiding over a case against tax attorney Roni Lynn Deutch, her brother and other defendants has been removed from the case.
Roseville attorney Cara O'Neill filed a motion – known as a peremptory challenge – to disqualify Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang from hearing the case, accusing the judge of bias against her clients. The motion was granted July 19. Superior Court Judge David Brown is now presiding over the case.
Attorneys who file such challenges do not have to show proof of bias but must believe that their clients cannot receive a fair hearing.
O'Neill is counsel for Deutch's stepbrother Scott Juceam and his business partner Robert Forsythe of tax preparation firm Juceam Group.
O'Neill was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but partner and co-counsel Michael W. Thomas, of the Roseville firm Thomas & Associates, said the challenge was filed "based on reasons and discussions between the client and ourselves."
A peremptory challenge is "a serious option rarely used," said Philip Carrizosa, a spokesman at the Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco. "It's a risky thing to do. You're telling the judge, 'I don't think you're fair.' A judge doesn't like to hear that."
Juceam and Forsythe, along with Gregory Flahive, owner of Sacramento tax law firm Prestige Law Corp., were named as co-defendants in the state's expanding case against Deutch in a July 8 filing. The complaint accused Deutch of violating court orders by fraudulently transferring several thousand sales leads to the trio, diverting money the state said should have gone to pay back clients.
The case is separate from the civil lawsuit filed by the state attorney general's office last August alleging that Deutch swindled clients, doing little or no work on their behalf.
That suit demanded that she return $34 million to customers and cease advertising.
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