Wednesday, May 23, 2007
CJP Rebukes Fresno Jurist for Sarcasm Toward Lawyers and Parties
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Fresno Superior Court judge was publicly admonished yesterday by the Commission on Judicial Performance for making discourteous and sarcastic remarks from the bench, both to attorneys and to individuals appearing before him.
Judge James M. Petrucelli, who has been on the bench since 1999, “engaged in a pattern of conduct that is inconsistent with canon 3B(4) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics, which requires a judge to be patient, dignified, and courteous with persons with whom the judge deals in an official capacity,” the commission held in a unanimous decision.
The judge, whom the commission disclosed received private discipline in 2001 and 2002 for similar conduct, did not contest the admonishment.
The commission cited 10 incidents between 2002 and February of last year, six of which occurred while Petrucelli was handling family law cases. The other four occurred at traffic court in Coalinga, where the judge has been assigned since January of last year.
In the family law cases, the CJP found, the jurist:
•Made loud and demeaning comments when an attorney mistakenly wrote the calendar number, rather than case number, of his matter on a sign-in sheet;
•Told an attorney involved in a visitation matter that if the client continued to take what the judge viewed as an unreasonable position regarding unsupervised visits, “I will do everything in my power to see that custody is taken away from her”;
•Made several offensive comments, in “a loud, angry, and abrasive tone of voice,” to an attorney, whose own divorce case he was handling while the attorney had several matters before him, when the lawyer moved to disqualify him from one of those cases, including the comment that her conduct was “deplorable” and that he was ”insulted” because she was moving to disqualify him from that particular case after she had earlier declined his offer to disqualify himself from all of her cases;
•Disparaged attorneys by suggesting in open court that their clients would be better off without them;
•Made offensive remarks, during a hearing on spousal support, about the new wife of the ex-husband, in addition to belittling him for not making more money; and
•Becoming embroiled in a loud argument with an attorney in chambers.
The traffic matters, the commission said, included comments indicating that he was not going to pay serious attention to defendant’s arguments, including one case where he suggested that the fine was “going up by the minute,” and making disparaging remarks about the California Highway Patrol, while officers were present, because another officer did not appear due to a scheduling conflict with a matter in another courthouse.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company