Thursday, October 9, 2008
Embattled Sacramento Judge McBrien Draws Write-In Opponent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Embattled Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien has drawn a write-in candidate for the November election, a group that unsuccessfully sought to recall the judge said yesterday in a release.
RecallMcBrien.org said that Matthew Jay Smith, a lead appellate court attorney with the Third District Court of Appeal, has pulled the paperwork to challenge McBrien, and that a formal announcement of Smith’s candidacy will be made soon.
The jurist survived the recent recall effort launched by the organization, but drew formal charges from the Commission on Judicial Performance in September.
The notice of formal proceedings charged McBrien with improperly threatening counsel with contempt, becoming embroiled in proceedings before him, and ultimately abandoning a trial in the middle of a party’s case in chief.
In May, the Third District held that McBrien’s behavior during the routine marital dissolution of Ulf and Mona Carlsson “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.
The jurist’s answer to the commission is due Tuesday.
The CJP previously publicly admonished McBrien after he plead 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 was appointed to the Sacramento Municipal Court in 1987 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and elevated by Deukmejian to the Sacramento Superior Court in 1989.
Smith told the MetNews he made the decision to run based in part on his own experiences with McBrien and based on the Carlsson case.
“I discovered that the people who had fought to recall him were unable to gather enough signatures [and] were looking for someone to serve as a write-in candidate” he said. “I felt duty-bound to assist in giving the public another choice…. I just don’t think he’s doing the public a service anymore.”
Smith said he had heard the judge tell litigants “we need to wrap this up because I need to catch my bus,” and opined that McBrien “just doesn’t care anymore about the things that he should care about, about the law and the parties in front of him.”
Born in Oregon, Smith, 46, moved to Davis, Calif. as a child and attended college and law school at U.C. Davis before clerking two years for Justice William Gillette of the Oregon Supreme Court.
He spent three years in private civil practice and one year working for the Fourth District Court of Appeal as a staff attorney before moving to the Third District in 2001, where he serves as chambers attorney for Justice Ron Robie.
“I’ve spent most of my career working for the appellate court,” he said. “Day in and day out what I do is look at what judges do right and judges do wrong…so I think I’m qualified to serve.”
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company