Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Arguments in Case of Contra Costa Judge to Be Heard Next Month
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Oral arguments will take place in Los Angeles next month in the case of a Contra Costa Superior Court judge charged with improper conduct in connection with a case involving his son, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
Arguments in the case of Judge Bruce Mills will begin April 8 at 10 a.m. in the appellate courtroom of the Ronald Reagan State Building, the commission said in a release, before the panel of special masters that heard evidence in the case last month. The panel consists of Presiding Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Perluss of this district’s Div. Seven, Orange Superior Court Judge Gail A. Andler, and Ventura Superior Court Judge Vincent J. O’Neill Jr.
The CJP claims that after Mills’ minor son was cited for possession of tobacco, the judge had an ex parte conversation with a judge pro tem to whom the case was assigned. As a result of that conversation, the commission charges, the judge’s son was permitted to receive credit for time spent in an out-of-state program against a community service requirement that a court commissioner had previously imposed.
The judge denies doing anything improper. There could not have been “ex parte” contact, he said, because the charge had been reduced to an infraction, and “any communications by or on behalf of the party with the court could not be ‘ex parte’ since there was no other side to be excluded from discussions.”
Mills also says he contacted the court clerk, not to initiate an ex parte contact with a judicial officer, but to inform the clerk that his son was still attending a wilderness program in Utah and would not be appearing in court that day.
At no time, he says, did he ask to appear before the judge pro tem. There was, he says, a brief conversation with the clerk and judge pro tem, which they initiated and which took place in the courthouse hallway—not chambers—because Mills saw them as he returned to the building from lunch that afternoon.
Mills, a 1984 graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon, practiced at a Walnut Creek firm until 1986, and was a deputy district attorney for Contra Costa County from 1987 until 1995, when he was appointed to the Walnut Creek-Danville Municipal Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. He became a Contra Costa Superior Court judge through unification in 1998.
He was publicly admonished by the commission in 2006 for having improper ex parte discussions with a defendant, a lawyer, and a probation officer and for making inappropriate remarks from the bench.
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