Friday, December 22, 2006
CJP Censures Retired Orange Superior Judge, Bars Her From Assignments
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance censured retired Orange Superior Court Judge Susanne S. Shaw yesterday and barred her from receiving any work assignments from any California state court.
“Judge Shaw’s persistent mistreatment of those who appear before her, and her inability to control her behavior despite repeated admonishments from the commission and the Court of Appeal convinces us of the high probability she will continue her unethical behavior if she were to sit in a judicial capacity in the future,” the commission said in its decision.
The sanctions, which are the maximum the commission may levy on a former judge, were imposed pursuant to a stipulation entered into by Shaw; her attorney, Edith R. Matthai of Robie & Matthai in Los Angeles; and the lawyer for the commission, Andrew Blum.
The parties also stipulated as to the facts.
Shaw was charged with five counts of prejudicial misconduct in her handling of five different criminal cases in 2003 and 2004.
“In each case, Judge Shaw treated individuals who appeared before her in a rude and demeaning manner,” the commission said. “She berated, scolded, and belittled attorneys, litigants, witnesses, and a prospective juror. In two cases, she improperly suggested that the defendant’s testimony was untruthful, reflecting prejudgment and a lack of impartiality.”
The commission continued:
“Here, the stipulated facts include forty-two instances in which Judge Shaw made remarks reflecting a lack of patience, dignity, and courtesy, constituting prejudicial misconduct. Judge Shaw also admits to acts of prejudicial misconduct involving abuse of authority, embroilment, and prejudgment.”
The commission concluded:
“The instances of misconduct occurred in five separate cases over a two year period. Under these circumstances, Judge Shaw’s actions cannot be characterized as isolated occurrences. Rather, they establish a persistent pattern of abusive and demeaning conduct that is seriously at odds with the canons and expected judicial temperament.”
Shaw’s abusive conduct drew harsh criticism from the Court of Appeal in unpublished appellate opinions arising out of three of the cases, the commission noted. In one appeal, the defendant’s conviction was reversed partly as a result of what the court of appeal called “the atmosphere of unfairness” created by Judge Shaw’s “caustic, condescending” remarks to the defendant and his counsel.
Matthai told the MetNews that that the decision to stipulate to the facts and sanctions was prompted by the language in those opinions and the fact that Shaw is already retired.
Shaw has a record of prior discipline for similar misconduct. In 1988, the commission issued an advisory letter to her for conduct that included making inappropriate remarks to defendants, and drawing a picture of a hanged man and having her bailiff deliver it to the investigating officer during a preliminary hearing.
She received a second “stinger” letter in 1989 in which the commission reminded her of the duty to be patient, dignified, and courteous to persons with whom she dealt in her official capacity, and reminded her of the importance of adhering to contempt law.
The commission voted 9-0 to accept the stipulation and issue the censure and bar. Shaw’s former Orange Superior Court colleague, Judge Frederick P. Horn, was recused, and public member Lawrence Simi did not participate.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company