Friday, May 28, 2004
Harris Testifies, Says HeWill Retire in October
Discipline Hearing to Conclude With Closing Statments Today
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Harris said yesterday he will retire in October, foregoing the new term for which he was unopposed in this year’s election.
Harris made the announcement at the end of his testimony in the judicial misconduct proceedings against him, which have been taking place all week in Pasadena. The proceedings are set to conclude with argument this morning.
“These proceedings have been very stressful and harmful to my reputation,” he told the MetNews at the close of the day’s session. He added that he has grown weary of the commute between his Hollywood home and South Gate, where he hears traffic and small claims cases and where he was transferred as a result of complaints which also form the basis of the action by the Commission on Judicial Performance.
He said he might have remained on the bench were he able to anticipate a more challenging assignment, such as general civil jurisdiction, which he did until early last year. His current post basically places him in a position similar to what he had when he began his career nearly 30 years ago as a Los Angeles Municipal Court traffic referee.
Effective Oct. 29
Harris said his retirement will be effective Oct. 29, when he will complete 20 years on the bench. He said he has made no specific plans, but looks forward to traveling with his wife of more than 34 years, who has attended the hearing every day.
The couple is looking forward to the birth of their grandchild in November, Harris explained. Their daughter is a Harvard Law School graduate who lives in Rome and works for Italy’s highest court.
Earlier yesterday, Harris was lauded by a stream of lawyers and judges called as character witnesses. Nearly 30 such witnesses testified yesterday and Wednesday.
But Ventura Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh, one of the three special masters appointed by the California Supreme Court to hear the charges, noted that the panel’s charge was not to decide whether Harris “is a good judge or a bad judge,” but to make findings on the specific charges. He told counsel, Andrew S. Blum for the commission and Edward George for Harris, to be prepared to place the character evidence into context today.
The CJP has accused Harris of seeking to establish personal relationships with the two assault victims—one of them just a teenager—making inappropriately personal comments to jurors, attorneys, and court staff, throwing a file at a deputy city attorney, and lying during an investigation into his conduct.
Marjorie Harris yesterday confirmed her husband’s earlier testimony that it was she who suggested that he invite a rape victim whose case he had tried to dinner as a way of offering comfort and friendship. Harris had originally invited her to his home for Friday dinner, but Marjorie Harris said she was having bad asthma attacks at the time and was not up to receiving guests.
The fact that Harris arranged to meet the woman at a restaurant and confirmed by telling her “it’s a date” did not alarm her, the judge’s wife said, because he has always used that expression to confirm engagements. To her, she explained, “date” means an appointment, not a romantic engagement.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bruce Marrs, who testified earlier, also said that Harris consistently used the “anachronistic” expression to confirm their lunch appointments. The two have regularly met each week of the football season for several years in order to have lunch and argue about the weekend’s games, Marrs explained.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company