Wednesday, June 14, 2006
CJP Admonishes Judge Over Use of Court Stationery
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph E. Di Loreto yesterday for using chambers judicial stationery in a personal matter involving the City of Downey.
In March 2004, Di Loreto had agreed with city officials to move trailers and other vehicles, which were being stored on his vacant lot next to a professional building he owned, by the end of the year to a new building which was yet to be built, to avoid legal action, the commission found.
In December 2004, he wrote a letter on chambers judicial stationery, which had “The Superior Court” at the top, the Los Angeles Superior Court seal in the upper corner, and identified himself as a judge, to Ron Yoshiki, assistant director for community development/city planner. In the letter, Di Loreto explained that the building construction was behind schedule, but that he would move the vehicles when it was completed, around July or August 2005.
Di Loreto acknowledged to the MetNews that it was a mistake to use the stationery, but said, “It had nothing to do with my gaining a financial advantage, or anything like that.”
“I was on the city council when Ron Yoshiki was hired,” he explained. “I called him up to ask for an extension, and he said to send him a letter.”
Di Loreto had argued before the commission that, since Yoshiki knew he was a judge, it didn’t matter that he used judicial stationery.
The commission disagreed, saying:
“The propriety of using judicial stationery in personal disputes does not turn on whether or not the recipient already knows the author is a judge. Rather, the use of judicial stationery is prohibited under the canons in question because, in such circumstances, such use involves lending the prestige of office or the judicial title to advance personal or pecuniary interests.”
In a separate matter in 2001 the commission sent Di Loreto a “stinger” or advisory letter disapproving of his use of the exact same stationery in a personal dispute with a “long-time personal friend” over ownership of a racing car.
In deciding that public admonishment is appropriate in the present matter, the commission said:
“Judge Di Loreto’s use of chambers judicial stationery in his dispute with the City of Downey was the same conduct that resulted in his 2001 advisory letter, and that the judge continues to advance the same justification for the improper behavior — the addressee knew the judge was a judge — that the commission rejected in 2001.”
Di Loreto said, “I didn’t think it was that big a thing, but I guess it was to them.”
The commission approved the admonishment by a vote of 10 to 0. Di Loreto waived his right to an evidentiary hearing and appeared before the CJP, pursuant to commission rules, to contest the admonishment.
Di Loreto was appointed to the court in 1995 and sits in Long Beach. He was represented before the commission by Long Beach attorney Edward P. George Jr.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company