Tuesday, April 15, 2008
CJP Sets Argument on Charges Against Orange County Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Oral argument on ethics charges against Orange Superior Court Judge Kelly MacEachern has been slated by the Commission on Judicial Performance for May 21, the commission said yesterday.
The argument, which is open to the public, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom One at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco.
A panel of special masters—comprised of Court of Appeal Justices Judith Ashmann-Gerst of this district’s Div. Two and Tami Canti-Sakauye and San Joaquin Superior Court Judge George J. Abdallah Jr.—found that the judge engaged in willful misconduct when she went to a judicial conference and claimed expenses for more days than she was entitled to.
The masters sustained nearly all of the allegations in the commission’s notice of formal proceedings, which called the judge to task for events surrounding her attendance at a continuing judicial studies program in San Diego in 2006.
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.
The masters found that MacEachern was dishonest in later claiming $220 in reimbursement for two additional nights.
When questioned about the discrepancy between the longer 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 masters found, 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 testified before the masters that she did not intend anything improper, and that her email was being misconstrued. The masters, however, said her “arrogance is unyielding” and said her statements about the matter, including her claim that she sat in on the Judicial Excellence class for 10 to 15 minutes and never intended to claim she attended the entire class, were “patently misleading.”
MacEachern, 53, was elected to the court in 2002. 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 Law School, 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.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company