Friday, January 16, 2009
Riverside’s ‘Jogging Judge’ Sheldon in Trouble With CJP Again
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Riverside Superior Court Judge Christopher Sheldon, dubbed the “Jogging Judge” after being admonished in 1998 for leaving his courtroom clerks to sign off on negotiated criminal dispositions while he ran up and down the courthouse stairs for exercise, again faces formal discipline, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
The commission disclosed that it had served Sheldon with a notice of formal proceedings, accusing the judge of routinely leaving work early.
The notice reads, in pertinent part:
“You have been assigned to the dependency department in Indio since August 2005. The dependency calendar routinely concludes before noon. Since approximately January 2006, you routinely have left the courthouse for the day after the calendar is concluded. You have not informed your superiors of your routine absences during court hours, and have not sought or received authorization for these half-day absences. On occasion, the juvenile delinquency judge in Indio has handled ex parte dependency matters during your afternoon absences. You generally have not sought to make yourself available for other judicial work during these absences.”
The commission alleged that Sheldon violated ethics rules requiring that judges uphold the integrity of, and promote public confidence in, the judiciary and perform their duties diligently.
Sheldon has until Jan. 29 to respond to the charges. His attorney, Reginald Vitek of San Diego, did not return a MetNews phone call.
Sheldon previously drew public discipline for running a misdemeanor pretrial calendar by having the attorneys negotiate dispositions, generally involving negotiated pleas in exchange for probation, with or without jail time, and leaving it to the court clerks to stamp his name on the orders.
The commission found that Sheldon was derelict in not personally taking the bench and making certain that the defendants were entering their pleas knowingly and voluntarily, in not imposing sentences in open court, and in leaving the courthouse during the calendar on one occasion without arranging for another judicial officer to cover.
It also found that he engaged in improper extrajudicial activity by exercising on the stairs while his courtroom was in session, and that he had undermined confidence in the judiciary.
The commission noted in mitigation that Sheldon had acted out of a desire to make the conduct of the calendar more efficient; that he stopped the improper practices after about six months, after being counseled by his supervising judge; and that he had taken on the misdemeanor pretrial calendar in addition to his other duties. But it also found that an admonishment was necessary because Sheldon “abandoned his fundamental responsibilities;” failed to appreciate the impropriety of his actions, which he had defended throughout the proceedings; and created a poor public image.
Sheldon, 59, has been a judge since October 1989, when then-Gov. George Deukmejian named him to the Desert Municipal Court. He had been a sole practitioner in Blythe for more than six years before that, and was a Riverside County deputy district attorney earlier in his career.
He was elevated to the Riverside Superior Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992.
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