Tuesday, February 28, 2012
CJP Charges Orange County Jurist With Trying to Fix Wife’s Ticket
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday it has charged an Orange Superior Court judge with attempting to influence a fellow jurist’s handling of a traffic citation issued to the accused judge’s wife.
Salvador Sarmiento, a commissioner of the Orange Superior Court from July 11, 1997 to August 6, 2003, and a judge of the court from August 7, 2003 to the present, is accused of willful misconduct in office, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, and improper action, meaning that he could be removed from the bench if the commission finds the charges true following formal proceedings.
A panel of three sitting or retired judges will now be appointed by the state Supreme Court to conduct an evidentiary hearing into the charges. If the charges are proven by clear and convincing evidence, the commission could order Sarmiento’s removal from office or impose a lesser penalty, such as censure.
Cited by Police
The commission explained in a notice of formal proceedings that the judge’s wife was cited by Santa Ana police on Nov. 18, 2010, for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but that she failed to pay the $234 bail or appear in court by the Jan. 19, 2011 deadline and the matter was sent to the court’s collection unit.
The commission alleges that Sarmiento approached the traffic commissioner, Carmen Luege, in February of last year and asked her to vacate the $300 civil assessment that had been added to the ticket as a result of the non-appearance.
The commission explained:
“The commissioner responded by telling you that she had to get back to court and would get back to you. You then took out a folded-up piece of paper and placed it on the commissioner’s desk, without saying what it was. It was the minutes for your wife’s ticket. The commissioner returned to her courtroom and you left her chambers.
“In the afternoon, after your calendar was concluded, you gave the courtroom clerk assigned to your department that day copy of the courtesy notice for your wife’s ticket, and asked him to check the status of the ticket. The clerk accessed the ticket information, and told you that the last action taken was the addition of the [civil assessment]. You responded that you were going to talk to ‘Carmen.’
You then returned unannounced to the chambers of Commissioner Luege.”
Sarmiento, the CJP said, then asked if he could “at least get [a] trial date.” The commissioner eventually instructed the clerk to set a trial date, and the judge’s wife appeared, pled guilty, and paid the full fine, including the civil assessment.
The judge is represented by Los Angeles attorney Randall A. Miller. His formal response to the charges is due March 12.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company