Despite concerns about discovery and dueling motions to disqualify attorneys, the Mission election lawsuit remains scheduled for trial in September.
Former Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas filed the lawsuit against his successor, Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña, last month. The lawsuit claims bribery, mail-in ballot fraud and illegal voting marred the June 9 election, when O’caña narrowly defeated Salinas.
Attorneys spent Friday morning arguing about discovery in the case, which may include thousands of documents, testimony from hundreds of witnesses and dozens of recordings purporting to expose voter fraud.
After about 30 minutes, state District Judge J. Bonner Dorsey had apparently heard enough. He extended a discovery deadline but emphasized the trial would remain scheduled for Sept. 24.
“Well, counsel, congratulations for having worked so many of these things out,” Dorsey said, adding that the attorneys managed to resolve many potential problems without intervention from the court. “That having been said, however, we will stick as firmly as we can to these deadlines. And, so, we’ll be able to go to trial on the 24th.”
The problems they resolved included dueling motions to disqualify attorneys.
On Tuesday, attorney Rick Salinas, who represents his father, filed a motion to disqualify attorney Patricia “Patty” O’caña-Olivarez, who represents her uncle.
The motion accused O’caña-Olivarez of obstructing justice by attempting to prevent witnesses from testifying about illegal activity.
As proof, Rick Salinas submitted a Facebook post where O’caña-Olivarez warned Mission residents about people impersonating police detectives.
“They are stating that they work for the Commission for a Recount in the Mission Mayoral race. They are harassing people and demanding to know who they voted for in the Mission Mayoral race,” O’caña-Olivarez posted on July 12. “You do NOT have to answer the door much less tell them who you voted for. That is a violation of your civil rights!!”
O’caña-Olivarez encouraged anyone who encountered them to call the police.
On Wednesday, attorney Gilberto Hinojosa, who also represents Armando “Doc” O’caña, responded with a motion to disqualify Rick Salinas.
“Specifically, Contestee would show that RICARDO L. SALINAS was in charge of paying the Salinas Campaign workers in exchange for the campaign worker to partake in illegal activities during the City of Mission runoff election held on June 9, 2018,” according to the motion.
They resolved the spat on Thursday, when both motions were dropped.
Disputes remain over discovery in the case.
Hinojosa accused Rick Salinas of failing to release affidavits and audio recordings in a timely manner. Rick Salinas blamed Hinojosa for the problem, arguing that Hinojosa requested trial in September but wasn’t prepared for the tight deadlines that resulted.
They went back-and-forth about discovery problems ad nauseam, which left Hinojosa visibly frustrated.
“With all due respect, this is simply hogwash,” Hinojosa said, adding that Rick Salinas sent him just a handful of affidavits and not a single recording.
Rick Salinas said he hadn’t withheld anything.
“I can’t give him something that I still don’t have,” Rick Salinas said, adding that he wanted to provide the documents and recordings in a format Hinojosa would understand.
Hinojosa said that excuse didn’t hold water, and he wanted all records in whatever format they currently exist.
After several attempts to cut the argument short, the judge set a discovery deadline for Sept. 9 and directed Rick Salinas to send Hinojosa the documents as quickly as possible.
How long the trial will take also remains in dispute.
Rick Salinas estimated the trial will take 14 days, but Hinojosa said the current discovery couldn’t possibly justify that.
“Here’s the problem we’ve got, your honor: Based upon the evidence that they’ve given me, there is no way that this case is going to be tried in more than five days,” Hinojosa said. “Based upon the evidence that they’re withholding from me, potentially, that may be the case, your honor. So, you know, it’s one of these old commercials: Show me the beef.”