Thursday, February 5, 2009
CJP Continues Hearing on Sacramento Jurist
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The hearing scheduled for Monday to inquire into possible misconduct by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien will not go forward that day, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
The commission granted a request by a commission staff lawyer to continue the hearing to a future date, yet to be determined, for medical reasons, it said.
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.
In his answer, McBrien, who is represented by San Francisco attorney James A. Murphy, of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney, denied abandoning trial.
He asserted that he had taken an emergency protective order call one minute before the conclusion of the court day and that he was inclined to declare a mistrial because the case had not been completed within the time estimate provided by the parties.
The judge further denied violating the Ulf Carlsson’s constitutional right to due process and a fair trial or being discourteous to Carlsson’s attorney.
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, 64, 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 survived a recall effort 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 2009, Metropolitan News Company