Thursday, August 3, 2006
CJP Charges Riverside Judge Spitzer With Backdating Orders
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Riverside Superior Court Judge Robert G. Spitzer has been charged with backdating orders, failing to decide cases within the time required by law, and other misconduct, the Commission on Judicial Performance disclosed yesterday.
In a notice of formal proceedings dated July 18, the commission said that Spitzer issued orders with dates that were many months earlier than those on which the orders were actually made, often failed to decide cases within 90 days, filed false salary affidavits, failed to issue orders, engaged in an ex parte communications, gave the appearance of and demonstrated bias, conducted independent investigations and demonstrated embroilment, and failed to cooperate during the commission’s investigation.
In a case involving the City of Moreno Valley and the Southern California Association of Governments, Spitzer allegedly backdated a judgment and writ of mandate by nearly a year. When one of the parties appealed, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely on the ground that the notice of appeal was filed “approximately thirteen months following the entry of judgment.”
In another matter where a defendant was charged with murder, child endangerment, driving under the influence of alcohol and other charges stemming from an automobile accident which resulted in the death of a minor, Spitzer, in a continuing effort to persuade the district attorney’s office to dismiss the murder charge and prosecute the defendant for vehicular manslaughter, contacted the victim’s mother without the parties’ knowledge and suggested she use her influence to convince the district attorney to drop the murder charge, the CJP alleged.
That case led Riverside District Attorney Grover Trask to adopt a blanket policy of disqualifying Spitzer from all felony cases in 2004, the North County Times reported at the time.
Trask told the newspaper:
“In my 22 years as district attorney, I’ve never done this before. The public has to have confidence in the impartiality of the court.”
Special masters appointed by the Supreme Court will conduct an evidentiary hearing where the parties will have an opportunity to introduce evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses. If the commission determines that charges are proved by clear and convincing evidence, it may remove, censure, publicly admonish, or privately discipline the judge, who has been on the Riverside bench since 1990.
Spitzer’s answer to the allegations is due Sept. 29.
Neither Spitzer nor his attorney, Reg A. Vitek of Seltzer Caplan, McMahon & Vitek in San Diego, returned calls.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company