|"Judge James L. Roeder, ...peremptorily bounced"|
The medical marijuana trial of one-time gubernatorial candidate Steven Wynn Kubby and his wife, Michele, is beginning to resemble a game of musical chairs with judges and attorneys dropping out as each side maneuvers for advantage.
The latest casualty is Placer County Superior Court Judge James L. Roeder, who was peremptorily bounced Monday as trial judge by Steve Kubby to give two new defense attorneys time to prepare a counterattack against prosecutors.
In a criminal case, each principal has a right to one peremptory challenge, a legal move that is often used to buy time when preparation for trial is incomplete.
The defense Monday was rebuffed when Carolyn M. Hagin, a representative of Kubby's recently retained counsel, J. Tony Serra, asked Judge Roeder for a short delay. She said Serra was busy defending a criminal case in San Jose and Michele had just recently obtained the services of a new lawyer, J. David Nick.
Neither Serra nor Nick was ready to start trial, she said.
Roeder denied Hagin's motion for a continuance, but he accepted a Kubby affidavit challenging his assignment as trial judge and ordered both sides to report to Judge John L. Cosgrove for the start of trial Thursday morning.
Cosgrove is the fifth judge to be assigned the Kubby matter.
Last July, prior to the original trial date, Michele Kubby used her peremptory to bar Presiding Judge Larry D. Gaddis from handling the case, and the prosecution then challenged Judge Joseph W. O'Flaherty.
A visiting judge, Robert G. Vonasek of Orland, started jury selection last August, but a few days into the process Michele Kubby began experiencing complications with her pregnancy. The trial was put on hold until Roeder took the reins in February.
The Kubbys decided to hire a new defense team in March when it became clear that the attorneys representing them at that time, Dale E. Wood and Joseph S. Farina, could better serve them as witnesses at trial.
They outlined their reasons for the substitution of counsel at an in-camera hearing before Judge Roeder, and Roeder approved the move.
The Kubbys are charged with two counts of conspiracy, possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana and five other drug possession counts following the Jan. 19, 1999, discovery of 265 plants at their Squaw Valley home.
The couple contend their indoor garden was grown for medicinal purposes.
Kubby, 53, a cancer patient, ran for governor as a Libertarian candidate in 1998 and played an instrumental role in the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, a ballot measure that allows for the doctor-recommended use of marijuana in California. He claims that pot has kept him alive for 15 years.
Michele Kubby, 34, had used marijuana with a physician's endorsement to treat a chronic stomach ailment before her pregnancy.
The prosecution dismisses the Kubbys' medical claims as irrelevant to the criminal counts.