Monday, December 31, 2001
Judge Simpson Granted Disability Retirement; CJP Probe Still Open
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Simpson has been granted disability retirement, a court official said Friday.
The retirement was effective Dec. 10, but an order by Chief Justice Ronald M. George approving the decision of the Commission on Judicial Performance was not received until Thursday, Jack LeVan of the court’s Judicial Services Bureau told the MetNews.
Simpson applied for disability retirement early this year, around the time the MetNews reported that he was under preliminary investigation by the commission. The commission was looking into allegations that the judge intervened with other members of the Glendale bench in order to help friends who had cases before the court and engaged in bizarre personal behavior in the courthouse.
Formal proceedings have not been filed, but the investigation has not been closed, Simpson’s attorney said Friday. “I haven’t got a clue” whether the commission will proceed, Edward P. George said.
As a retired judge, Simpson remains subject to commission discipline for misconduct that occurred while he was on the bench. Penalties include possible censure and a ban on his receiving court-assigned work.
The tax-free pension to which he is entitled under the disability retirement law—65 percent of a superior court judge’s salary, which will go to $136,224 next week—will be unaffected by any commission action.
Simpson was elected to an open seat on the Glendale Municipal Court in 1994 and became a Superior Court judge under unification last year. He was the Glendale court’s last presiding judge.
John Gantus, the Glendale attorney who handled his disability application did not return a phone call Friday. He previously said the investigation was not a factor in the judge’s applying for disability retirement after several months away from the court on medical leave.
Simpson has had an ongoing series of health problems, his lawyers have said, including strokes in 1995 and 1997 and two serious falls in a year. The second fall, in December of last year, caused a shoulder separation requiring surgery, they said.
Simpson took leave of the court after that fall and was expected to return following surgery, court officials said prior to the time the investigation was disclosed. But a source familiar with the facts reported that court officials attempted to persuade Simpson to retire, but that the judge initially resisted that advice.
The allegations investigated by the commission included claims that Simpson gave favorable treatment to friends in traffic cases, and attempted to persuade two of the Glendale court’s commissioners, Dona Bracke and Steven Lubell, to grant favorable treatment to his friends as well.
Simpson also was accused of insulting staff members in open court, of bringing his dog into court at the conclusion of jury trials and introducing him as the “low-budget bailiff,” discussing personal business on the telephone while court was in session, and “standing in your chambers bathroom urinating with the door wide open” after giving his court clerk permission to enter.
Simpson is a former deputy district attorney and ran for the bench after 29 years as a prosecutor. He received more than 50 percent of the vote in defeating four opponents, including Bracke and Lubell, in the 1994 election to succeed James Rogan following Rogan’s election to the state Assembly.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company