Friday, February 13, 2009
CJP Announces New Hearing Date for Sacramento Judge McBrien
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The hearing of special masters to inquire into possible misconduct by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien has been rescheduled for April 1, the Commission on Judicial Performance has announced.
Special masters Fifth District Court of Appeal Justice Dennis A. Cornell, Orange Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler and Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise DeBellefeuille will conduct the 9 a.m. hearing in the Third District Court of Appeal’s temporary courtroom. It is open to the public.
Formal proceedings were instituted against McBrien in September, alleging that the jurist, while presiding over a routine marital dissolution 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.
The Third District Court of Appeal held that McBrien’s behavior during the trial had “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 in these three cases constituted willful misconduct, persistent failure or inability to perform the duties of a judge, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
San Francisco attorney James A. Murphy of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney is representing McBrien before the council. Trial Counsel Andrew Blum will represent the commission.
The parties will have an opportunity to introduce evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses at the hearing, after which the special masters will provide the CJP with a report containing their findings with respect to the charges. The parties will have an opportunity to respond to the report through briefing and argument before the commission.
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, 63, 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 recently survived a recall campaign 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