Friday, July 23, 2004
Santa Clara Judge Convicted of Ticket Fixing Resigns
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Santa Clara Superior Court judge convicted of ticket fixing has resigned facing discipline under an agreement with the Commission on Judicial Performance, the commission said yesterday.
A hearing set for Monday before a panel of special masters in San Jose never got under way, as lawyers for the CJP and Judge William Danser negotiated the agreement announced yesterday while the masters waited. Under the agreement, Danser’s resignation was effective Monday.
In an order approving the stipulation and directing that the disciplinary inquiry be terminated without an evidentiary hearing, the CJP said Danser also agreed that “at a minimum he engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
Danser further agreed that the evidence against him is sufficient to support a censure and a bar from working as an assigned judge or on matters referred by state courts, and to waive his right to appeal any discipline imposed to the state Supreme Court.
Danser, 50, was already under indictment when the CJP filed charges against him in February. The commission, and the Santa Clara district attorney, accused 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 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, later entered a no contest plea, and Danser was convicted April 30.
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 former Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato.
The CJP alleged 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 claimed 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 claimed, a beneficiary of Danser’s misconduct later made a donation to the Los Gatos Little League, of which the judge was then president. 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.
Under the stipulation, the CJP order said, Danser admitted the truth of the allegation involving fixing tickets for his son. Discipline on most of the other alleged misconduct will be based on transcripts and exhibits from the criminal case, the order explained.
Allegations involving the improper dismissal of traffic citations against a junior high school basketball coach, of basing a drunk driver’s sentence on the proximity of the location where the offense occurred to the judge’s home, and most of the allegations of improper conduct toward attorneys appearing before him were dismissed in the interest of justice, the order 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