Thursday, March 20, 2008
Opponent Sues to Remove Disciplined Judge From Ballot
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A candidate for the Riverside Superior Court has petitioned the court to remove Judge Robert G. Spitzer from the June 3 primary ballot because the Commission on Judicial Performance has ordered his removal from office.
In a petition for writ of mandate, filed Monday, Deputy District Attorney John Molloy argued that the incumbent “does not meet the minimum qualifications of a judge under the California Constitution and he must be removed as a candidate from the Riverside County ballot materials.”
The commission ordered Spitzer off the bench last October, saying he failed to decide cases within the time required by law, became personally embroiled in cases, failed to cooperate with the commission’s preliminary investigation, and was dishonest with the commission and the special masters who heard evidence in the case.
“The lack of candor we have observed in these proceedings is fundamentally at odds with the role of a judge who is sworn to uphold the law,” the CJP said.
Largely agreeing with the three-judge panel that heard evidence in the case, the commission said that Spitzer failed to ensure that orders were filed on time, often failed to decide cases within 90 days, filed false salary affidavits, failed to issue orders, engaged in ex parte communication, and gave the appearance of and demonstrated bias.
Spitzer has petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the commission’s order, which also disqualifies him from practicing law, on the ground that the commission “allowed its prosecutorial objectives to take precedence over constitutional rights, procedural safeguards, and the independence of the judiciary.”
He is constitutionally barred from sitting as a judge in the interim, although he continues to receive his salary.
Spitzer and Molloy are among four candidates for the seat. The others are Riverside private lawyer John W. Vineyard and Anne M. Knighten, a staff lawyer for the court.
Molloy argues in his petition that if Spitzer is not removed as a candidate, his ballot designation in which he describes his occupation as “Superior Court Judge” should be changed to comply with the Elections Code.
He called the listed occupation “false and misleading because (Spitzer) is not working as a Superior Court Judge, he was removed from judicial office, and he was disqualified from acting as a judge.”
Molloy, who is represented by Indio attorney Peter Cabrera, acknowledged a dearth of case law on the subject, but said the state Constitution is clear in requiring that a judicial candidate be someone who is a judge or a member of the State Bar, and that Spitzer is neither. He analogized Spitzer’s status to that of a convicted defendant whose appeal is pending.
Spitzer’s attorney, G. Dale Britton of San Diego’s Kleindinst, P.C., did not return a MetNews phone call.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company