(CN) - An assistant prosecutor had full authority to obtain a wiretap leading to the methamphetamine charges against 30 people, the 9th Circuit ruled Monday.
When the wife of San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos was in the hospital for a serious surgery in March 2010, Assistant District Attorney Dennis Christy had applied for and obtained a state wiretap pursuant to his authority as acting district attorney.
Ramos had not been reachable by phone during business hours.
The wiretap led police to charge Mayel Perez-Valencia and 29 others for their alleged involvement in a methamphetamine-distribution organization.
This summer, the 9th Circuit remanded the case with directions for the trial court to examine whether Ramos' delegation of authority extended only to wiretap applications, or whether he applied with the full authority of the district attorney.
After reviewing a complete record on a second appeal, the court found Monday that "the record developed by Judge [Percy] Anderson leaves no doubt that in Ramos's absence, Christy was 'running the office.'"
"No one else was authorized to do so," Judge Stephen Trott wrote for a three-judge panel. "This finding satisfies our concern that the delegation might have been only for wiretap applications. It was not."
Christy was fully empowered to assume all the powers and responsibility of the District Attorney during Ramos's absence, except for policy and personnel decisions that are not urgent in nature, the court found.
"The circumscribed areas of authority retained by Ramos were in and of themselves exceptions to the daily normative activities of a district attorney's office. We also find it noteworthy that the narrow powers Ramos retained were not delegated to anyone else," Trott wrote.