Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, April 2, 2003


Page 3


Report Says CJP Disciplined Five Judges Publicly, 23 Privately, in 2002


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Twenty-three judges were privately admonished or warned last year about inappropriate behavior ranging from making disparaging remarks about lawyers sending letters to public officials on judicial stationary regarding a personal dispute, the Commission  on Judicial Performance  reported yesterday.

Six judges drew private admonishments, while 17 received the less serious advisory or “stinger” letters.

Those 23 were in addition to the five judges whose discipline was public and previously reported. Four judges were censured and one was publicly admonished.

No judge was removed from the bench in 2002, although the commission noted that an order of removal was made in the ticket-fixing case against San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Michael Platt.

That case is not counted in the commission’s 2002 disposition statistics because Platt did not leave the bench until this year, when the state Supreme Court unanimously voted not to review the commission ruling.

Of the six judges who received private admonishments, one could be identified from the commission’s summary of the case, because it grew out of a public proceeding. Now-retired Riverside Superior Court Judge Eugene Bishop agreed to accept the discipline and to refrain from any court-appointed work in order to resolve charges he  deprived parents of due process on four different occasions by removing children from their custody or placing them in foster care without notice.

The other five judges were admonished for conduct that included demonstrating prejudgment of cases in remarks from the bench, failing to withdraw from a case or to disclose disqualifying information, failing to disclose a former attorney-client relationship with an attorney with a case before the court, and berating court employees in open court.

One judge was convicted of a misdemeanor, but the case drew only private discipline, the commission explained, because it did not involve alcohol, drugs, or moral turpitude.

Conduct that drew stinger letters included predicting a criminal defendant’s conviction in open court at the outset of a trial, commenting on a pending case, failing to decide a case for six months, commenting negatively about another judge during jury selection, waiting until after a hearing was concluded to disclose a conflict of interest, having improper ex parte contacts with prosecutors, handling a traffic case for a relative of an acquaintance without the relative being present, and failing to report information suggesting that a colleague had committed serious misconduct.

In two instances, presiding judges were cited for failing to act on complaints against subordinate judicial officers, an omission for which other presiding judges have been cited by the commission in the past. Although the commission now has the authority to impose its own discipline on subordinate judicial officers, its rules provide that presiding judges are to handle such matters first.

The commission noted that it had disposed of a total of 901 complaints, some of which involved multiple allegations of misconduct. Of those, 830 were dismissed after initial review, based on a lack of sufficient factual allegations to make out a case of misconduct.

Of the 71 cases that went past the initial review stage, 40 were closed without discipline, 28 drew public or private discipline, three were closed because the commission opted not to proceed following the judge’s resignation or retirement..

The commission is chaired by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Rise Jones Pichon. Court of Appeal Justice Vance Raye of the Third District is vice chair.

Other members are San Francisco attorney Michael Kahn, Los Angeles attorney Marshall Grossman, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Madeline Flier, and public members Ramona Ripston, Crystal Lui, Lara Bergthold, Barbara Schraeger, Penny Perez and Betty Wyman.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company