Thursday, April 4, 2013
CJP Reports Disposing of More Than 1,100 Cases
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance disposed of more than 1,100 complaints against California judges last year, it said in its annual report released yesterday.
The commission said it acted on a total of 1,152 complaints about California judges. One thousand of those were concluded after initial review, and 152 were referred to the commission staff for further inquiry or preliminary investigation.
Of those 152 cases, 43 resulted in discipline, three were closed following the judge’s resignation or retirement, and 106 were closed without discipline. Of the 43 cases in which discipline was imposed, one resulted in removal, one in public censure, five in public admonishment, five in private admonishment, and 30 in the issuance of advisory or “stinger” letters.
Of the 43 cases resulting in discipline, 14 involved improper demeanor or decorum or inappropriate humor, 10 the on-bench abuse of authority, 10 the failure to ensure rights, and three bias or the appearance of bias for or against particular individuals not based on race or other group identification.
Five judges were disciplined over issues regarding disqualification, disclosure, or retaliation against attorneys who had disqualified judges or disclosed grounds for disqualification. Three were disciplined for excessive delay in making decisions and/or falsely declaring that they had no cases under advisement for more than 90 days, and three others for improper ex parte communications.
Other grounds for which judges were disciplined were administrative malfeasance, comment on a pending case, improper favoritism, improper business or financial activity, improper political activities, and improper conduct away from the bench.
One judge was disciplined for misconduct occurring before becoming a bench officer.
As part of the report, the commission each year summarizes the conduct for which judges received private discipline, with no identification of the court involved.
Conduct for which private admonishments were imposed included conducting online investigations and using the resulting information to make decisions without giving the parties notice or opportunity to respond, commenting negatively on the perceived failings of other judges while on the bench, declaring a mistrial in a three-year-old case without giving the parties an opportunity to be heard, improperly disclosing confidential information contained in a fee waiver application, enhancing a sentence based on the judge’s perception that the non-testifying defense counsel had lied to his own lawyer, and failing to disclose a social relationship with an alternate juror that commenced between the verdict and sentencing.
The commission also reported concluding 161 cases in which complaints were filed against commissioners and referees. The commission’s rules require that such complaints be referred to the local courts for investigation and imposition of discipline if warranted; the commission then has discretion to determine whether further proceedings are necessary.
In all but nine of the cases, the CJP found further proceedings to be unnecessary. In one case the subordinate judicial officer drew a public admonishment, in three the commission investigated and closed the matter without discipline, in four the subordinate judicial officer drew a stinger letter, and one subordinate judicial officer agreed to bring the proceedings to a close by resigning.
The report also categorized the commission’s spending for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The CJP said it spend nearly $3.9 million, of which 41 percent was devoted to its investigative function.
Twenty-one percent of CJP expenditures were for administration or general office expenses, 16 percent for facilities, nine percent to conduct formal proceedings, seven percent for the cost of the commission’s legal advisor, and six percent for general operating expenses.
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