Thursday, August 16, 2007
CJP Charges Orange Superior Court Judge With Ethics Violation
Kelly MacEachern Clamed Reimbursement for Expenses She Never Incurred, Panel Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday charged Orange Superior Court Judge Kelly MacEachern with violating the Code of Judicial Ethics by claiming reimbursement for attendance at a judicial education program that she never went to.
While MacEachern withdrew the request after it was questioned by her presiding judge, her actions constituted willful misconduct—the most serious level of judicial wrongdoing under the code—as well as inability to perform her duties and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, the commission alleges.
In a notice of formal proceedings, which MacEachern has until Aug. 28 to respond to, the CJP charges that the judge went to San Diego for one week to attend a continuing judicial studies program.
Prior to her trip, she signed up for a class entitled “Excellence in Judging.”
Entry into the class was denied by the program because MacEachern was not considered qualified. In turn, she attempted enrollment in an evidence class.
MacEachern was again denied admission, this time because the class was full. At this point, prior to leaving for San Diego, the only class she was validly enrolled in was a one-day lecture.
MacEachern was given advance notice by AOC Senior Attorney Bonnie Pollard that since she was attending a one day class, only one night at the Hyatt Regency Islandia Hotel would be paid for by the state.. The other four nights were consequently paid with her personal credit card.
It is MacEachern’s conduct upon returning to Orange County that brought about the charges. She allegedly attempted to get reimbursed by the county for the extended hotel stay.
When questioned about the discrepancy between the weeklong stay and the one-day class, MacEachern explained in an email that there was “a mix up with my registration,” so she “sat in on the judicial excellence class on Monday” and “sat in on the Thursday a.m. D.V. [Domestic Violence] class.”
A reimbursement request was given to Orange Superior Court Presiding Judge Nancy Stock, who had her executive assistant conduct an investigation into the claim. It was determined that the judge did not sit in on any classes, and that there was no mix-up with her registration.
Stock, in the presence of Judge Thierry Colaw, confronted MacEachern, the commission said, and MacEachern admitted to Stock and Colaw that she provided misleading information in order to get reimbursed for her expenses before withdrawing her claim.
MacEachern, 53, was elected to the court in 2002 and is up for re-election next year. She served as a deputy district attorney in Orange County from 1981 until her election to the bench, after having been a deputy Long Beach city prosecutor for a year.
A graduate of UCLA and Southwestern University School of Law, she taught elementary school in Barrow, Alaska and in Long Beach before becoming an attorney. She is a past president of the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys and currently sits at the Harbor courthouse in Newport Beach.
MacEachern did not return a phone call, and her attorney, Edward P. George Jr., could be reached for comment.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company