Friday, June 9, 2006
Commission Censures Two Judges Who Sought Preferential Treatment Following DUI Arrest
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday censured two superior court judges who, in separate incidents, tried to use their judicial positions to avoid being arrested for driving under the influence.
Sonoma Superior Court Judge Elaine M. Rushing and Riverside Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Schwartz each stipulated to the facts of the charges pending against them, and to public censure. Both waived hearing, review, and further proceedings.
Rushing stipulated that on June 21 of last year, she hit a residential wall while driving alone in Santa Rosa, causing property damage and sustaining a head injury, then left the scene without notifying law enforcement or the property owners. She then drove into a ditch.
When California Highway Patrol arrived, having been notified by someone other than Rushing, she told an officer that she was not the driver. She said that a man and woman were driving her home from a friend’s house, and that she had been sitting in the back seat, despite the fact that her car had no back seat.
When an officer asked how much she had to drink, Rushing first responded, “ two bottles,” then said, “two glasses.”
She repeatedly told officers that she was a superior court judge, that her husband was an appellate court judge—Sixth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Conrad Rushing—and that they should not be arresting her.
Rushing pled no contest and was convicted of driving with an blood alcohol level of .08 with an enhancement for having a blood alcohol level greater than .20. She was placed on three years’ informal probation, ordered to perform 10 days of work release, attend a 45-hour alcohol program, pay a fine, and comply with other conditions of probation.
Rushing promptly reported her arrest to the commission and issued a public letter of apology. The commission said she had no prior record of discipline after more than 14 years on the bench and that it received numerous letters in support of her staying on the bench.
Schwartz stipulated that on July 16 of last year, Pismo Beach police observed his vehicle “swerving all over the road” and crossing the double solid lines. After police determined that Schwartz’ blood alcohol level was 0.18 the officers proceeded to arrest him.
The judge told the officers, “But you know what this is going to do; this will substantially impair my career.” An officer replied, “If I let you go, it could impair my career.” The judge then said, “You don’t have to let me drive; you could just let me go home.” The officer said, “I can’t do that.”
After he was taken to the police station, Schwartz continued pleading with the officers to let him go because of the effect on his career, and asking if there was someone he could talk to.
Schwartz pled no contest and was convicted of driving with an blood alcohol level of .08. He was placed on three years’ probation.
The commission explained that Schwartz promptly reported his arrest to the commission and has no prior history of discipline.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company