California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - MARCH 2002
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - March 2002
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News / News Briefs
Midyear meeting will focus on fairness
E-briefs offer bar updates
Three strikes supporter has a change of heart, now wants the law restricted
ABA seeks nominations for three awards
Rule change proposed to protect government whistleblowers
More pamphlets added, translated
Innovation garners awards for 11 courts
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Trials Digest
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Public Comment
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Opinion
From the President - New era of bar-conference cooperation
Conference of Delegates: A valuable ally
PG&E's plan: A power play
Letters to the Editor
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You Need to Know
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Twilight zone cases can make practice tricky
Former deputy DA, convicted of grand theft, is suspended
Attorney Discipline
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MCLE Self-Study
At tax time, modify debt with caution
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events

DISCIPLINE

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Former deputy DA, convicted of grand theft, is suspended
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A former San Diego deputy district attorney was placed on interim suspension early this year after pleading guilty to one count of grand theft, a charge that resulted from conducting his real estate business out of his office. PETER JAMES LONGANBACH [#48988], 56, of Rancho Santa Fe, who once headed the DA's economic fraud unit, lost his license Jan. 7.

Longanbach quit his job two years ago after state investigators searched his home and office at the San Diego Hall of Justice as part of an investigation into his financial dealings.

Although he could have been sentenced to three years in prison, Longanbach was ordered last month to spend 350 hours teaching underprivileged children to play golf and to organize a charity golf tournament. San Diego Superior Court Judge Kenneth So also placed Longanbach on probation for three years and ordered him to spend one day in jail.

After a 17-month investigation by the attorney general, Longan-bach was indicted by a grand jury last year on 12 felony charges including misuse of public funds, grand theft and embezzlement. The investigation was launched when two secretaries complained he was forcing them to work on his personal business during work hours.

Transcripts of the grand jury testimony showed he used employees to type personal letters, prepare leases for rental properties and run errands. One secretary testified she sometimes spent between 50 and 75 percent of her work time on Longanbach's personal business. An avid golfer, he also was investigated for playing golf during work hours, but was never charged with that offense.

In a plea bargain reached with the attorney general, Longanbach wrote, "I used San Diego district attorney staff to prepare personal documents. I used San Diego district attorney's office fax, copy machine and telephone equipment for personal purposes, and I worked on private matters during district attorney office hours."

As part of the agreement, he will pay San Diego County $25,000 in restitution. The judge said he opted for probation rather than prison because Longanbach had never before been convicted of a crime.

Over the course of the investigation, 34 witnesses testified before the grand jury, most of them fellow employees.

The grand theft plea was the culmination of Longanbach's legal woes, which began following his successful prosecution of a 1996 murder trial. An appeals court overturned the defendant's second-degree murder conviction two years later, citing a legal error by the judge.

A second trial was held amid allegations by the defense attorney that Longanbach coached a key witness to lie. The witness admitted she perjured herself and Longanbach, called as a witness, took the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions.

The defendant was found guilty last year of the less serious charge of involuntary manslaughter by a second jury. He subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against Longanbach and the district attorney's office, charging that the former prosecutor engaged in criminal conduct to win a murder conviction.

As a result of the murder case, Longanbach became the subject of a separate criminal investigation by the attorney general.

In addition, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in 2000 that Longanbach committed prosecutorial misconduct in a 1998 grand theft and forgery case. Judge Judith Hayes said he "willfully violated both the spirit and the letter" of the law requiring disclosure of evidence.

Longanbach's name is playing a prominent role in this month's primary election for district attorney in San Diego, where Paul Pfingst, seeking a third four-year term, faces a challenge from three other candidates.

Pfingst's opponents say he failed to discipline Longanbach properly when allegations were made against him in 1998, pointing to the investigation that included a raid on the DA's downtown offices seeking evidence. In addition, they criticize Pfingst for giving Longanbach a raise when he knew about the secretaries' complaints.