Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Judicial Watch Calls for Impeachment of Wesley, Oki, Commissioner
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The conservative legal organization Judicial Watch has asked Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez to launch impeachment proceedings against Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Dan Oki and David Wesley and Superior Court Commissioner Jeffrey Harkavy.
In a letter faxed to Nunez on Monday and released yesterday, Sterling Norris, director of the organization’s Judicial Monitoring Project, said the three were guilty of “an intentional abuse of judicial power, endangering the citizens of Los Angeles County” on May 28 of last year.
Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for Nunez, said Norris’ letter had been received and referred to the speaker’s legal counsel.
Norris, a retired deputy district attorney and one-time district attorney candidate, attached to his letter a transcript of the May 28 proceedings in Harkavy’s court.
Oki, then-supervising judge of the downtown criminal courts, ordered that the arraignment court close on time, at 4:30 p.m. The court’s budget problems, he said, precluded keeping the court open and paying overtime.
Wesley, who was then the assistant supervising judge and has since succeeded Oki as supervising judge, delivered Oki’s message to Harkavy.
The expectation, Oki and Wesley later explained, was that if any suspects who were in custody had to be released, they would be immediately re-arrested, but the Los Angeles Police Department, on advice of the Office of City Attorney, declined to effect the re-arrests
More than two dozen suspects were freed late that night, and one of them, Jerrell Patrick, is now accused of murder.
“If the judicial release of Patrick had not occurred, Lawrence Middleton would be alive today,” Norris said in his letter to Nunez.
Norris noted in his letter that “judges of state courts are subject to impeachment for misconduct in office,” under Art. 4, Sec. 18 of the state Constitution. While commissioners are subject to discipline by the Commission on Judicial Performance, there is nothing in the Constitution which explicitly permits their impeachment.
Impeachment is necessary, Norris told the speaker, because the CJP has already ruled that there was no cause for investigation and Presiding Judge Robert Dukes has concluded there was no misconduct on the part of any of the court’s judicial officers.
While Oki and Wesley face challengers in their bids for re-election to the court next Tuesday, Norris told the speaker that elections are no substitute for impeachment, because incumbent judges are all but unbeatable in large counties.
“But, more importantly, there is no deterrent to other members of the judiciary, unless there is direct removal for the specific judicial abuse shown here,” Norris wrote.
Norris yesterday also released a letter to Nunez from Marcella M. Leach, executive director of Justice for Homicide Victims, Inc. and chair of Crime Victims United, urging an investigation into the actions of May 28.
Norris also released letters from Leach and himself to the foreperson of the civil grand jury, urging an investigation by that body.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company