Wednesday, September 1, 2004
CJP Sets Oral Arguments in Case of Ex-Judge Convicted of Fixing Tickets
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Oral arguments before a panel of special masters considering discipline for a former Santa Clara Superior Court judge who dismissed at least 33 traffic tickets for local celebrities — including professional athletes and wealthy executives charged with drunken driving – have been set for Sept. 21 in San Jose, the Commission on Judicial Performance announced yesterday.
Though former Judge William Danser has already resigned from the bench, stipulated to discipline, and been found guilty of a felony and several misdemeanors related to obstruction of justice, CJP Director-Chief Counsel Victoria Henley said the oral arguments are still required before the panel can make findings about the degree of misconduct involved.
Danser’s attorney, James A. Murphy of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney in San Francisco, disputed that.
“Why the CJP is going forward with this matter is a mystery to me,” Murphy declared, calling the oral arguments a “waste of time and energy and expense.”
Murphy said he will appear before the special masters, 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, but added he was not sure what he would tell them.
“I haven’t formulated my argument yet,” he said.
The July 22 stipulation provided that Danser’s resignation three days earlier was irrevocable, that some of the charges against him would be dropped, and included his agreement that “at a minimum” he engaged in “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
Danser also agreed to allow the masters to make their recommendations without an evidentiary hearing based on transcripts of the criminal proceeding, to give up his right to work 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.
In the criminal case, Danser was sentenced to 90 days in custody, but the judge sentencing him ruled he could serve the sentence under house arrest with electronic monitoring.
Retired Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge William Kelsay, who presided over the trial, said the 50-year-old diabetic would likely not survive jail, and his family would suffer tremendously. Danser’s wife, Superior Court Judge Catherine Gallagher, is fighting breast cancer.
Danser, an obese, insulin-dependent man being treated for depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, must also spend 400 hours in community service, remain on probation for three years, pay fines of $2,700 and repay county agencies roughly $200 for each ticket he dismissed. The felony conviction renders him ineligible for state retirement benefits.
San Jose Sharks goalie and former rookie of the year Evgeni Nabokov, Sharks President Greg Jamison, San Jose Earthquakes soccer forward Dwayne DeRosario and other local celebrities were named in the investigation. Many never paid fines or attended traffic school but simply passed tickets to a former Los Gatos police detective and Sharks security consultant, who then had Danser dismiss them.
The trial sparked anger from rank-and-file citizens who have never had tickets dismissed. A juror compared Danser with Martha Stewart, and hundreds of locals wrote letters to the judge.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company