Tuesday, October 28, 2008
CJP Admonishes Ex-Judge Over Disparaging Comments
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday publicly admonished retired San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Paul M. Bryant Jr. for failing to display the proper judicial demeanor with individuals he dealt with in an official capacity.
Bryant retired from the bench in January, one month before the commission issued its preliminary investigation letter. The commission said that Bryant had consented to the public admonishment based on five instances where he failed to be patient, dignified and courteous toward counsel appearing before him, contrary to Judicial Canon of Ethics Canon 3B(4).
The commission detailed one instance where Rancho Cucamonga attorney Lavonna Hayashi appeared before Bryant for a hearing on a motion and request for sanctions. Bryant granted Hayashi’s motion, but ordered Hayashi to sit down “in a harsh and threatening manner” when Hayashi attempted to inform him that the case was also on calendar for a case management conference.
Bryant later recalled Hayashi’s case, vacated the orders he had issued in favor of Hayashi’s client, and immediately recused himself from the case. Bryant also told Hayashi in open court that he found her to be “rude and obnoxious.”
He later acknowledged his behavior had created the impression that he was not impartial and expressed regret for his conduct during the CJP investigation.
In another matter, the jurist called an attorney “obnoxious” in front of her client for requesting the client’s case be called before the court recessed to allow the court bailiff to remove video equipment from the courtroom.
The jurist also told a prosecutor in open court that the prosecutor had said “one of the dumbest things I ever heard a lawyer say,” regarding a comment Bryant had overhead the prosecutor make expressing the prosecutor’s belief that the judge was going to review a box of discovery documents the public defender’s office had delivered earlier that day.
In two other proceedings, Bryant used words to the effect that a deputy district attorney must have “rocks for brains” to agree to a proposed settlement in one matter and predicting the government would “wimp out” of prosecuting a defendant for failing to appear in another matter.
Although Bryant acknowledged his comments were “harsh and sarcastic,” or “poorly chosen” and said in retrospect he would have handled the situations differently, the commission noted that Bryant had previously received an advisory letter in 1991 for making disparaging statements about an attorney in front of a jury.
Presiding Justice Judith D. McConnell of the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Div. One, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein, attorneys Peter Flores and Marshall Grossman, and public members Barbara Schraeger, Maya Dillard-Smith, Lawrence Simi, Sandra Talcott and Nathaniel Trives joined the commission chairman, Orange Superior Court Judge Frederick Horn, in voting in favor of public admonishment.
Public member Samuel A. Hardage did not participate.
Bryant’s counsel, San Diego attorney Heather L. Rosing of Klinedinst PC said that her client wished to express his regret for anything he may have done that “crossed the line or propriety,” and that he “had a great deal of respect for all who have appeared before him.”
She praised Bryant as a “really good guy,” with a “distinguished, 20-year career,” adding that the jurist is sitting on assignment in the San Bernardino Superior Court and has some future plans for private mediation.
“He has told me many times it has been his honor and privilege to serve on the bench al these years,” Rosing said.
The jurist was appointed to the old San Bernardino Municipal Court in 1988 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and elevated by Deukmejian to the San Bernardino Superior Court one year later.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company