Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Couwenberg Seeks Reinstatement to Bar, Doesn’t Contest Removal as Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Patrick Couwenberg, who was ordered removed from the Los Angeles Superior Court bench for persistently misrepresenting his qualifications and professional background, has asked the state Supreme Court to allow him to return to the practice of law.
Couwenberg last week filed a petition with the state Supreme Court seeking review of the Aug. 15 order of the Commission on Judicial Performance removing him from the bench. But he did not contest the commission’s findings that he engaged in willful misconduct and is unfit to remain on the bench, effectively giving up his months-long battle to remain on the bench.
Couwenberg’s attorney, Edward P. George, asked the court to grant review and refer the matter to the State Bar Court for a determination as to whether the jurist is fit to practice law.
The request is unusual, George acknowledged yesterday. But referral to the State Bar Court is “a perfectly logical thing for them to do,” the lawyer told the MetNews, given the provisions of Art. V, Sec. 18(e) of the State Constitution.
The article provides, in relevant part, that “[a] judge removed by the commission is ineligible for judicial office...and pending further order of the court is suspended from practicing law in this State.”
Couwenberg lost his judicial authority the day the commission issued its order.
But under another provision of Art. V, he continues to receive his $133,051 annual salary until the high court rules on his petition.
The commission found that Couwenberg, a former deputy district attorney appointed to the bench in 1997, misrepresented his educational and military backgrounds to various sources, including then-Gov. Pete Wilson, who appointed him, and the commission itself.
Couwenberg admitted that he falsely claimed to hold a master’s degree in psychology and made false claims of military experience, including an award of a Purple Heart, in Vietnam.
The commission found that he also lied in sworn testimony by claiming to have participated in covert operations with the CIA in Southeast Asia in 1967 and 1968.
The judge and his attorneys have maintained that he suffers from “pseudologica fantastica,” a symptom of low self-esteem rooted in the judge’s early childhood in what is now Indonesia followed by difficult relocations, first to Holland and then to the United States.
Experts retained by the judge’s lawyer said that the condition causes Couwenberg to mix fact and fantasy, but that it is treatable with therapy and doesn’t render him unfit for judicial service.
The commission, however, largely agreed with a psychiatrist who testified as a commission witness at a special masters’ hearing. Psychological testing data, Dr. James Rosenberg said, doesn’t show that the judge’s “repetitive lying” as an adult is due to childhood trauma, nor that he suffers from any recognized mental illness.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company