Tuesday, November 20, 2001
Ex-Judge Facing Discipline by CJP Pleads Fifth Amendment
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A former Riverside Superior Court judge, charged with multiple conflicts of interest and financial disclosure violations, has exercised his privilege against self-incrimination rather than answer the accusations under oath.
In a response filed with the commission last week, ex-Judge William Sullivan pled the Fifth Amendment in response to each of the allegations raised by the commission in a formal notice made public Nov. 1.
Sullivan, 73, is charged with using his judicial position to his own benefit in dealings with estates and trusts with which he remained involved after his appointment to the bench. Sullivan was a leading trusts and estates lawyer in Riverside from 1956 to 1987 and a judge from 1987 until his retirement in 1999.
Sullivan’s lawyer, Edward P. George, said yesterday he has no knowledge of any pending criminal investigation targeting the former jurist. But with his client being the subject of “critical comments in the newspaper,” including a Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial urging prosecutors to look at the case, “we just wanted to cover every option,” George told the MetNews.
George insisted that there was “no connection that I know of between Judge Sullivan and [Bonnie] Cambalik” or Michael Molloy, whose looting of several conservatorship estates resulted in their being sent to prison. An attorney who investigated Cambalik and Molloy on behalf of a nonprofit organization filed a complaint against Sullivan with the CJP based on facts she said she learned during the investigation.
The attorney, San Francisco sole practitioner Barbara Jagiello, said yesterday she discussed Sullivan with Deputy District Attorney Edward Kotkin while he was prosecuting Cambalik and Molloy. But she has not been in recent contact with him, she said.
Jagiello said she became suspicious of Sullivan because of the judge’s reluctance to respond to clear improprieties on Cambalik’s part after they were brought to his attention. Kotkin said he could not comment on whether Sullivan is under investigation by his office.
Cambalik, who was a professional conservator, is serving a 26-year prison term after pleading guilty to a total of 22 counts of embezzlement by a caretaker, grand theft, perjury and receiving stolen property. Molloy, who was Cambalik’s attorney, was convicted of similar charges and sentenced to 16 years, and resigned from the State Bar with disciplinary charges pending.
Sullivan’s invoking of the Fifth Amendment in a CJP proceeding is not without precedent. Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Trammell, who abruptly resigned from the bench in 1997 following the disclosure of his sexual relationship with a woman who was a defendant in a case before him, did the same thing.
Trammell, who is now serving a 27-month prison term after pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud related to the case, was censured by the commission and barred from receiving assignments of judicial work, the same possible penalty that Sullivan faces.
Trammell represented himself in the commission proceedings. He declined to answer the charges under oath, and did not attend his own disciplinary hearing, but filed a trial brief in which he claimed that the woman, Pifen Lo, was associated with gangsters—including her ex-husband, a co-defendant in her kidnapping case—and that he became involved with her only because he thought she could protect him from violence on the part of her associates.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company