Friday, April 26, 2002
Commission on Judicial Performance Publicly Admonishes Sacramento Judge for Cutting Trees on Public Land
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Sacramento Superior Court judge who pled no contest last year to a misdemeanor charge of cutting trees on public land was publicly admonished yesterday by the Commission on Judicial Performance.
“Judge [Peter] McBrien’s conduct evidenced disregard of the principles of personal and official conduct embodied in the California Code of Judicial Ethics, including failure to observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved...and failure to respect and comply with the law and to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary ...and constituted conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute,” the commission declared.
The commission voted 9-0 to issue the admonishment. Commission Vice-Chairman Vance Raye, a Third District Court of Appeal justice, recused himself, while public member Gayle Gutierrez of Los Angeles did not vote.
Raye is a former Sacramento Superior Court judge and, like McBrien, served as an aide to then-Gov. George Deukmejian before being appointed to the bench. McBrien was named to the old Sacramento County Municipal Court in 1987 and has been a Superior Court judge since 1989.
Prosecutors accused McBrien of hiring a tree trimmer to cut trees and saw off branches in a county park next to the judge’s home, in order to improve the judge’s view of the nearby river. He paid $20,000 in restitution and a $500 fine, and the conviction was expunged after he completed probation.
The misdemeanor plea was reached after the judge was originally charged with felony vandalism, a conviction of which would have meant automatic removal from office. His attorney said at the time that McBrien “made a mistake,” and the judge apologized, in a letter to the commission, for bringing “dishonor and disrespect to the bench.”
McBrien’s co-defendant, the tree trimmer, claimed that all he did was remove branches from three trees. But the prosecutor said five mature valley oak trees had been mortally damaged.
The Sacramento Bee reported that county officials found 16 valley oaks behind the judge’s home, but concluded they had been trimmed or cut down years earlier and did not reference them in the complaint.
Prosecutors rejected McBrien’s request for a civil compromise, citing the extent of the damage.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company