Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Veteran Jurist Charged by CJP With Mishandling Traffic Tickets
Orange Superior Judge Stanford Admits Violating Standards, Apologizes Through Lawyer
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A 26-year veteran of the Orange County trial bench was charged by the Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday with misusing his office to assist his courtroom clerk, several friends, and his son-in-law in resolving traffic citations.
Orange Superior Court Judge Richard Stanford admitted, through his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, that he “gave preferential treatment” in nine traffic cases, going back to 2003.
Meyer said the judge was “anguished” by his actions, apologized for having “wrongly rationalized” that he was saving time for the court, and “has donated the full amount of all waived fines and fees to Orangewood Children’s Home” and will “continue to cooperate” with the commission.
In its notice of formal proceedings, the commission alleged that the judge:
•Personally handled the traffic citation for a juror in a 2003 case that he was presiding over, waiving over $170 in fines and fees and ordering traffic school;
•Transferred a 2005 citation given to an elderly family friend from the traffic department to his felony trial department and suspended all fines and fees without an appearance by the defendant;
•Transferred to his own department two citations, one for running a red light and one for speeding, given to a friend who is a pastor at his church, suspending more than $400 in fines and fees;
•Transferred a 2006 citation given to his court clerk, for failure to stop at a stop sign, to his own courtroom and suspended sentence and waived all fines and fees, which would have come to approximately $141;
•Transferred to his own department a 2006 citation given to a friend who had performed remodeling work on Stanford’s home and extended the appearance date before sending the matter back to traffic court;
•Transferred to his own department a 2007 speeding citation issued to a family friend and suspended sentence and waived all fines and fees, which would have come to more than $240, without an appearance by the defendant;
•Transferred to his courtroom a 2009 speeding citation given to a friend with whom he was acquainted through volunteer church work, waiving fines and fees of about $270 without an appearance by the defendant;
•Transferred to his own courtroom a 2010 red-light ticket given to his son-in-law, Michael McGee, waiving fines and fees of more than $400.
The commission noted that judges are disqualified from handing cases involving family members. It also alleged that the judge asked the courtroom clerk, who had herself benefited from similar action by the judge in 2006, to enter the disposition on the docket as “chambers work” but that “she told you that she did not feel comfortable doing so because she knew Mr. McGee, and said that she would take the matter to her supervisor; ultimately, the matter was reported to your superiors.”
The judge posted cash bail on his son-in-law’s behalf after the clerk explained her objections, the commission said.
Under CJP rules, the matter will be heard by a panel of three special masters appointed by the Supreme Court, who will report their findings to the commission. The judge will then be subject to possible removal, censure, or admonishment.
USC Law Graduate
In light of the judge’s admissions, however, it is possible that the matter might be resolved by stipulation between the judge and the commission.
Stanford, 64, is an Orange County native and a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where he majored in speech, and of USC Law School.
He was admitted to the State Bar in 1973 and joined the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, where he became a member of the Career Criminal Prosecution Unit before being appointed to the Central Orange County Municipal Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1985.
He became an Orange Superior Court judge through unification in 1998.
Meyer said in his statement that the judge’s “26 years of excellent service as a judge in the most serious cases, and his 12 years with the District Attorney, are in contrast to his thoughtless actions” in the cases cited by the CJP.
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