Monday, April 19, 2004
CJP Slates Discipline Hearing for Judge William Danser
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Santa Clara Superior Court judge, currently on trial for ticket fixing, faces a July 19 discipline hearing under action announced Friday by the Commission on Judicial Performance.
The commission also disclosed in a release that Third District Court of Appeal Justice Harry E. Hull Jr., Monterey Superior Court Judge Terrance R. Duncan, and Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Kelly had been named by the Supreme Court as special masters in the case of Judge William Danser.
The hearing is set to take place at the San Jose headquarters of the Sixth District Court of Appeal.
Danser, 50, was already under indictment when the CJP filed charges against him Feb. 9. The commission, and the Santa Clara district attorney, accuse Danser of arranging dismissals of citations issued to friends, relatives and sports figures, and of having two drunk-driving cases transferred to his courtroom in order to hand out lenient penalties.
Danser—who is constitutionally barred from hearing cases while under indictment, but retains his title and salary—and former Los Gatos police detective Randy Bishop pled not guilty in October to obstruction-of-justice charges. Bishop, who has worked as a security consultant for San Jose’s professional hockey and soccer teams since leaving the police department, has since pled no contest and could be called as a witness against Danser.
The CJP reportedly launched an investigation after Danser wrote a letter to a police official, on Superior Court letterhead, asking that parking tickets issued to his son be dismissed.
The CJP charged that Danser “engaged in a pattern of misconduct in the handling of traffic matters on behalf of [his] friends and acquaintances, players and employees of local professional sports teams and other acquaintances of [the detective], court staff, and others” between March of 1997 to December of 2002. Among the alleged beneficiaries of the misconduct is former San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings forward and current Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato.
The CJP alleges that Danser became acquainted with Granato through his and his sons’ involvement in youth sports activities. After Granato was cited for driving 85 miles per hour in a 65-mile-per-hour zone and missed a court appearance, Danser intervened with a court commissioner to get a $648 fine reduced to $64, the CJP charged.
The judicial watchdog agency claims Danser similarly assisted 22 other individuals, including two other Sharks hockey players, the girlfriend of a Sharks player, a team executive, a Sharks broadcaster, the owner of a restaurant frequented by Sharks players, a player for the San Jose Earthquakes professional soccer team, the Earthquakes’ head trainer, the girlfriend of the team’s equipment manager, and two former professional baseball players.
In at least one case, the CJP claims, a beneficiary of Danser’s† misconduct later made a donation to the Los Gatos Little League, of which the judge was then president. That man, a Los Gatos bricklayer, testified Wednesday at the criminal trial that a stranger who overheard him complain about the ticket at a local restaurant offered to take care of the ticket in exchange for the donation, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
A court document indicating the ticket had been dismissed by Danser was later delivered to him at the restaurant by a waitress, the man said. The prosecutor “became more and more incredulous” as the testimony went on, the newspaper reported.
The CJP further accused Danser of having “engaged in a pattern of improper judicial demeanor, threats, harassment, retaliation, banishment, and related misconduct directed at attorneys, court staff and others,” which included barring them from his courtroom and verbally abusing them.
Danser, who is represented in the discipline proceedings by San Francisco attorney James A. Murphy, has neither admitted nor denied the commission’s charges, citing his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. His criminal defense attorney suggested in opening statements that Danser was deceived by Bishop, the Mercury News said.
The jurist was a prosecutor and later a labor and employment lawyer in the area before his appointment to the Santa Clara County Municipal Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995. He became a Superior Court judge through unification in 1998.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company