Tuesday, October 6, 2009
CJP Delays Argument on Sacramento Judge’s Fate
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The oral argument regarding possible misconduct by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien has been continued to an undetermined future date, the Commission on Judicial Performance announced yesterday.
The commission said it had been informed that McBrien was unable to attend the hearing, which had been scheduled to take place today, due to illness.
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.
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 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.
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