Friday, November 16, 2007
CJP Admonishes Judge for Banishing Defendant to Michigan
Veteran Orange Superior Court Jurist Pamela L. Iles Draws Discipline for Fifth Time
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday admonished Orange Superior Court Judge Pamela L. Iles for allowing a defendant to leave the state in order to avoid being sentenced for domestic violence.
The commission unanimously condemned the unusual arrangement agreed to by the judge, in which she accepted the defendant’s plea with the understanding that he would be immediately taken to the airport by a defense investigator, would fly to Detroit, and would not be subject to arrest as long as he did not return to California.
The arrangement was tantamount to banishing the defendant from the state and violated the judge’s ethical duty to respect and comply with the law, the CJP found.
The public admonishment for Iles, 64, constituted the fifth time she has drawn discipline from the commission in a 24-year judicial career.
She received an advisory letter in 1988 for failing to abide by statutory requirements in imposing sanctions, a second “stinger” letter in 1997 for improperly handing a domestic violence case; a private admonishment in 2004 for displaying embroilment and partiality in a criminal case; and a public admonishment last year for ordering an unrepresented probationer to jail for nearly a month without a hearing.
She did not contest the latest admonishment.
The commission explained that in the case of People v. Alhusainy, which the judge heard in March 2002, she told the defendant that he had a sentencing hearing on May 1 of that year, and that if he failed to appear, she would issue a bench warrant, “but it will only be able to be served within the State of California” and “will not be served in Michigan or any other state.”
The defendant agreed. If he returned, Iles said, he would “empower me to sentence you anywhere up to six years and eight months in the state prison,” to which he replied “I will not come back.”
The judge responded:
“It is up to you, but I’m telling you what’s gonna happen if you do.”
The defendant did not appear at sentencing, and a warrant was issued. The defendant returned to California last year and was arrested.
He then moved to set aside the plea, and to disqualify Iles under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 170.6. The judge struck the disqualification motion as untimely and denied the motion to set aside the plea.
The defendant then sought a writ of mandate, which the Court of Appeal granted on several grounds, including that the agreement was contrary to public policy, which precludes courts from “mak[ing] other states a dumping ground for our criminals.”
Iles told commission investigators that she approved the plea agreement because she was concerned that the defendant would be tortured and executed if he were deported to Iraq, a potential consequence of a domestic violence conviction.
In its decision, the commission said the judge violated in clear contravention of the law, and that she had no right to abrogate public policy “on a case by case basis,” even with the agreement of counsel, and that the issue “is not subject to a reasonable difference of opinion.”
The CJP added that there was no agreement that Michigan was willing to take the defendant, or that allowing him to go there would not harm the citizens of that state.
The commission vote was 8-0, with Orange Superior Court Presiding Judge Frederick P. Horn recused, and San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein not participating. There was one vacancy on the commission at the time the public admonishment was proposed.
The judge’s attorney, Edith Matthai, did not return a phone call.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company