Friday, November 12, 2010
San Diego Jurist Publicly Censured by CJP, Agrees to Resign
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
San Diego Superior Court Judge DeAnn M. Salcido, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, agreed to step down and accept public censure by the Commission on Judicial Performance pursuant to a stipulated disposition entered Wednesday.
Salcido admitted allowing the filming of her court proceedings for a reality television show audition and 39 instances of misconduct that the commission said was “without question, unbefitting a judge.”
She said in a statement that her decision to resign was “a difficult one,” but that she “realized that there were certain perceptions of my style that made it prudent for me to move on.”
In a decision authored by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein, vice-chair of the commission, the panel opined that Salcido’s “showmanship behavior” created the appearance that she “was more interested in promoting herself for a role in a television show than in delivering justice to those who appeared before her.”
‘Game Show Atmosphere’
While she was on camera, the proceedings before Salcido “took on the atmosphere of a game show,” Feinstein said, noting instances where the judge solicited audience participation and asked defendants if they wanted to use “a life line,” or “which door” they wanted to walk out. Another defendant was told “we’re doing double or nothing now,” and asked if he was prepared to “double down.”
Even when not being filmed, Feinstein said, Salcido “engaged in conduct that was seriously at odds with her duty under the canons to be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, attorneys, and those with whom she deals in an official capacity and to maintain decorum in the proceedings.”
Salcido made several “manifestly inappropriate remarks of a lewd nature in an open courtroom” Feinstein noted, including one instance where she joked about the possibility of a defendant being raped while incarcerated and another where she told a defendant he would be “screwed” if he violated his probation, and “we don’t offer Vaseline for that.”
In open court, Salcido “made a mockery of the judicial system,” by making comments which “ridiculed and belittled” defendants, referred to clerical staff as “cucumbers” who “aren’t even potatoes because potatoes have eyes” or “corn because com have ears,” and disparaged an assistant public defender and a fellow judge, Feinstein said.
She further “demonstrated a disturbing lack of decorum” after a defendant accidentally called her “sir” by “raising her leg above the bench, holding her leg by the ankle, and stating, ‘Do these look like the boots of a sir?’ ”
Appearance of Impropriety
The panel determined that Salcido’s conduct failed to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, created the appearance of impropriety, undermined the public confidence in the court system, made improper use of the prestige of her office, and allowed other activities to take precedence over her judicial duties.
Salcido also abused her authority and demonstrated embroilment by taking a defendant into custody for direct contempt without complying with the legal requirements for doing so, Feinstein said.
Based upon these facts and conclusions of law, which Salcido stipulated to, the panel concluded her conduct was “prejudicial to the administration of justice” and brought the judiciary “into disrepute,” properly subjecting her to discipline.
The judge, represented by attorney Heather L. Rosing, Esq., of Klinedinst PC, agreed to tender her irrevocable resignation from judicial office within five days, to be effective immediately, and not seek or accept judicial assignment, appointment, or reference of work from any California state court. She also waived any review by the Supreme Court.
Her failure to comply with any of the stipulation’s terms would allow the commission to withdraw the censure and proceed with formal proceedings, and may constitute additional and independent grounds for discipline, according to the agreement.
The commission approved the stipulation by unanimous vote, with commission Chair Judith McConnell, the presiding justice of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, recusing herself.
Salcido began her legal career in 1989 after receiving her law degree from UCLA, where she was the student body president. She spent three years as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles prosecuting criminal cases before moving to San Diego in 1992.
Salcido did civil litigation with two San Diego firms and then joined the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office at the end of 2000. Gov. Gray Davis tapped her for the San Diego Superior Court in 2002.
She was challenged for re-election earlier this year by an opponent backed by a Christian conservative group that also supported challengers to other judges. Salcido received 59 percent of the vote, and the other challenged jurists were reelected.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company