Wednesday, December 10, 2008
CJP Convenes Special Masters Hearing Regarding Sacramento Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9 to inquire into possible misconduct by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
The 9 a.m. hearing in the Third District Court of Appeal’s courtroom will be conducted by special masters Fifth District Court of Appeal Justice Dennis A. Cornell, Orange Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler and Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise DeBellefeuille. It is open to the public.
The CJP instituted formal proceedings against McBrien in September, alleging that the jurist, while presiding over a routine marital dissolution between Mona Carlsson and Ulf Carlsson, had improperly threatened counsel with contempt, become embroiled in the proceedings before him, and ultimately abandoned a trial in the middle of a party’s case in chief.
In May, the Third District Court of Appeal held that McBrien’s behavior “openly violated” the precepts of due process and so infected the integrity of the process that reversal was required without an assessment of actual prejudice.
McBrien was also charged with engaging in improper ex parte communications in two separate trials.
The CJP’s notice alleged that McBrien’s conduct as a whole constituted willful misconduct, persistent failure or inability to perform the duties of a judge, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
San Francisco attorney James A. Murphy, of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney is representing McBrien before the council. n Trial Counsel Andrew Blum will represent the commission.
The parties will have an opportunity to introduce evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses at Monday’s hearing.
Following completion of the hearing, the special masters will provide the CJP with a report containing their findings with respect to the charges. The parties will have an opportunity to respond to the report through briefing and argument before the commission.
If the Commission determines that the charges are proved by clear and convincing evidence, it may impose discipline as provided in the California Constitution. Charges that the commission determines are not proved will be dismissed.
The CJP—which is composed of three judges, two lawyers, and six public members, and chaired by Orange Superior Court Judge Frederick P. Horn—publicly admonished McBrien after he pled guilty to misdemeanor vandalism for chopping down oak trees on public land because they obscured the view of the American River from his home in April 2002.
McBrien, 63, was appointed to the Sacramento Municipal Court in 1987 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and elevated by Deukmejian to the Superior Court in 1989.
The jurist recently survived a recall campaign and defeated write-in candidate Matthew Jay Smith, a lead appellate court attorney with the Third District Court of Appeal, in the November election.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company