Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Commission Sets Oct. 17 Arguments in Discipline Case Of Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Diana Hall
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance has set final arguments for Oct. 17 in San Francisco in the discipline case against Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall.
Commission attorneys are seeking the removal of Hall, a judge since 1990, after a panel of special masters found that she engaged in willful misconduct—the most serious level of misconduct under the judicial discipline system—by threatening a prosecutor for disqualifying her from a case.
Hall has accepted the commission’s findings that she engaged in prejudicial misconduct by driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated and by misreporting a $20,000 campaign donation, claiming that it came from her personal funds when she actually got the money from her then-domestic partner Deidra Dykeman. But she is disputing the panel’s determination that she told Dykeman to make out a check to her for the contribution.
Hall’s relationship with Dykeman became public, and her legal problems began, when the two women had an argument at the home they shared in northern Santa Barbara County just before Christmas 2002. Sheriff’s deputies, summoned by Dykeman, stopped Hall’s car and gave her a sobriety test, which showed a blood alcohol level of 0.18.
Jurors convicted her of driving while impaired and driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of the 0.08 percent threshold. Suspended from the bench with pay while facing felony charges, she was reinstated after being acquitted of one felony count of dissuading a witness by force or threat and misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and exhibiting a firearm.
Another felony charge, stemming from Hall’s alleged destruction of a phone during the confrontation with Dykeman, was dropped after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. Hall was placed on three years’ summary probation on the drunk driving conviction.
According to news accounts of the trial, Dykeman testified that Hall bit her, threatened to shoot one of her dogs and walked around their Santa Ynez Valley home carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver while Dykeman was calling 911.
Hall acknowledged during her trial that she drove away from her home that night, but said she never touched a gun or Dykeman.
The campaign finance charge stems from a routine audit of Hall’s successful campaign for re-election in 2002. Auditors found that Hall made a $25,000 loan to her campaign five days after Dykeman wrote her a check for $20,000, which was deposited in Hall’s personal account, but which allegedly was intended by Dykeman to be a campaign contribution.
The threats charge was a result of a bench conference in June 2001, when Hall allegedly said to Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy, “I know it is not appropriate to inquire as to why the prosecutor exercised a 170.6 challenge, but why are you doing this Mr. Duffy?” or words to that effect.
Hall allegedly told Duffy that he would find himself “in [District Attorney] Tom Sneddon’s office explaining yourself for filing” the peremptory challenge. Hall claims she never made those comments to Duffy or to any other lawyer who challenged her.
Hall graduated from California State University, Northridge, in 1972. She went on to earn her law degree from the University of LaVerne and was a prosecutor in Shasta and Santa Barbara counties for 13 years before then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the Santa Barbara County Municipal Court in 1990.
She has been a Superior Court judge since 1998.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company