Thursday, May 19, 2011
CJP Slates Hearing for Orange County Judge Accused of Favoritism
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance has scheduled a July 25 hearing in Santa Ana before a panel of special masters on charges that an Orange Superior Court judge improperly ruled on traffic citations involving his courtroom clerk, several friends, and his son-in-law.
Orange Superior Court Judge Richard Stanford, a 26-year veteran of the county’s trial bench, has formally admitted that he gave preferential treatment in nine cases between 2003 and last year. In his response to the charges, he apologized for his actions and said he did not intend to conceal or deceive, and that he did not dismiss any cases, although some fines or fees were waived.
When the charges were made public last month, the judge said though his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, that he was “anguished” by his actions, had “wrongly rationalized” that he was saving time for the court, had “donated the full amount of all waived fines and fees to Orangewood Children’s Home” and would “continue to cooperate” with the commission.
In his answer, filed Tuesday, the judge admitted that he:
•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.
While admitting that his actions were wrong, the judge denied any malicious intent or that there was any “pattern” of misconduct. There were no similar acts of misconduct during his lengthy judicial career, he said.
The special masters hearing the matter on July 25, beginning at 9 a.m. at the Fourth District Court of Appeal courtroom, will be Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor, First District Court of Appeal Justice Maria Rivera, and Glenn Superior Court Judge Donald C. Byrd.
The masters, who were appointed by the Supreme Court, will report their findings to the commission. The judge will then be subject to possible removal, censure, or admonishment.
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.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company