Friday, June 6, 2008
Commission Disciplines Judge For Fundraising Activities
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday publicly admonished a former Merced Superior Court judge for using his office to engage in fundraising for his church’s mission trips to Africa.
The commission took the action against retired Merced Superior Court Judge Robert D. Quall, who since 1994 has served as the main organizer of an auction to support missions by the Merced Presbyterian Church’s to Tanzania and Kenya, for personally soliciting funds and engaging in fundraising activities for the organization while still on the bench in violation of canon 4C of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
Quall, who retired in 2007, stipulated to the issuance of the admonishment, which is the least severe form of public discipline the commission can impose.
Under the canon, a judge may assist a non-profit organization in planning fundraising, but may not personally solicit funds or engage in fundraising activities. A judge also may not use the prestige of his position for fundraising purposes, and may not participate in any activity where his participation is designed to increase donations because such participation constitutes an implied, indirect solicitation of funds.
The matter arose over complaints that Quall had solicited donations of items and services for the church auction—ranging from hay to the use of vacation homes—from commissioners, law enforcement, attorneys, court administrators and other individuals.
In one instance, Quall asked Debbie Bennett, an attorney who regularly appeared before him, to donate season tickets she held to San Francisco Giants baseball games to the auction while she was before him seeking a continuance.
After Bennett complained to the presiding judge, who instructed Quall not to solicit attorneys for auction donations, Quall then called Bennett into his chambers and asked if she had “snitched” on him. When Bennett evaded his question, the judge accused another attorney by name, and renewed his request to Bennett to donate her tickets.
Bennett did not respond to a request for comment.
Other behavior cited by the commission included soliciting attendance for the auction, directing court personnel to sell tickets, and acting as the auctioneer.
Additionally, Quall’s secretary while he was still a judge spent approximately 16 hours over the course of five years preparing about 60 documents pertaining to fundraising, as well as a father-son competitive tennis event, a men’s chorus, and the “Quall-ity Inn”—a cabin the judge owns that he allows others to use.
Such a use of court resources was more than of a de minimis nature, the commission concluded.
Quall was elected to the Merced Municipal Court in 1979 and was elevated to the Merced Superior Court in 1998 through unification.
The commission previously issued him a “stinger” letter in 1994, and a private admonishment in 2006 for unrelated misconduct.
Neither Quall nor his attorney, James A. Murphy, could be reached for comment.
Orange Superior Court Judge Frederick B. Horn, the commission chairman, authored the opinion, and Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Judith D. McConnell of the Fourth District’s Div. One, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein, attorneys Peter Flores and Marshall Grossman, and public members Samuel A. Hardage, Barbara Schraeger, Lawrence Simi, Sandra Talcott and Nathaniel Trives joined Horn to vote to publicly admonish Quall.
Public member Maya Dillard-Smith did not participate.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company