James Fleming, Ex-Capistrano Unified Superintendent, Wins Appeal in "Enemies List" Case

Three years after

James Fleming

, the former superintendent of

Capistrano Unified School District

, was indicted for allegedly creating an "enemies" list of parents and students and then lying about it, a state appeals court has let him off the hook.

All of the ex-administrator's actions were legal and justified, and the Orange County District Attorney's Office presented no evidence to indicate otherwise, presiding Justice David Sills writes for a unanimous three-justice panel in Santa Ana.

"It is surely within the legitimate purview of a district superintendent to investigate whether any discontent in a district is limited to particular schools or whether it is evenly spread throughout a district," Sills wrote in the 36-page ruling (via the Orange County Register). ". . . Fleming, as superintendent, had a legitimate interest in ascertaining if there was a pattern to the discontent represented by the 'nascent' recall movement."

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That movement began in March of 2006 and the pre-trial hearings for the case brought by the DA against Fleming and Assistant Superintendent Susan McGill were heard in October 2007. In between those dates, a first recall effort failed to make the ballot for lack of valid signatures, so board and administration foes turned to removing trustees through regularly scheduled elections in the Aliso Viejo-based district. The final three targeted trustees were removed in June '09.

The case against McGill is pending.

Both sides were ordered by the appeals court to file additional written arguments.


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