Thursday, March 17, 2011
Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss Rebuked Over KKK ‘Joke’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Harvey Giss yesterday drew a public admonishment from the Commission on Judicial Performance for a remark he claimed to have made in jest, referencing the Ku Klux Klan.
Giss, 71, admitted saying something to the effect that the only thing that would motivate the African American defendants in a then-pending criminal case to accept a plea offer would be if he addressed them “in a white sheet and a pointy white hat,” the CJP said in its decision.
The comment was made last July during an off-the-record discussion with attorneys in Giss’ San Fernando courtroom, in the presence of a family member of one of the defendants.
Two days later, after defense counsel requested Giss transfer the case to another judge, Giss conceded having made a “bad statement” but complained:
“People don’t have a sense of humor anymore.”
His comments led to his eventual recusal from the matter.
The commission found that Giss “should have known that his insensitive courtroom reference to a history of violence towards persons of the defendants’ ancestry, whether intended to make a valid point regarding his role as a judge or in jest, was offensive and inappropriate.”
Such conduct, the CJP decision said, “was, at a minimum, improper action pursuant to article VI, section 18(d)(3) of the California Constitution,” and violated ethical canons requiring judges to refrain from speech that would reasonably be perceived as bias or prejudice, be dignified and courteous, avoid the appearance of impropriety, and act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
The voting members of the commission, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Judith D. McConnell of the Fourth District’s Div. One, were unanimous in their decision.
Giss, a former deputy district attorney who has been on the bench since April 2001, has no prior record of public discipline.
A call to his courtroom yesterday was unreturned, but his attorney, Edith Matthai of Robie & Matthai, issued a statement on his behalf, saying the judge had made the “unfortunate statement off the record and in jest” and “regrets that the comment was made.”
Matthai said that Giss had “intended to emphasize how impossible it was for him to do what counsel had requested,” and acknowledged that he “should have chosen a different way to make his point.”
Giss is married to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan L. Lopez-Giss and made headlines last month when he dismissed the murder charges against a 19-year old Edward Arch arising from a 2007 shooting in North Hills, finding police had coerced the teen into confessing.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company