Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Judicial Watchdog Reports Disposing of Nearly 1,200 Cases in 2013
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance took final action on nearly 1,200 complaints against California judges last year, it said in its annual report released yesterday.
The commission said it acted on a total of 1,181 complaints, 29 more than last year.
One thousand sixty-one complaints were found not to merit further action. “A significant number” of these were cases where the complaint alleged legal error or dissatisfaction with a ruling, rather than legal error, the report said.
Of the remaining 120 cases, two were closed following the judge’s resignation or retirement, and 88 were closed without discipline. Of the 30 cases in which discipline was imposed—down from 43 in 2012—one resulted in public censure, one in public admonishment, seven in private admonishment, and 21 in the issuance of advisory or “stinger” letters.
No judges were removed from office by the commission last year.
Of the 30 cases resulting in discipline, four involved improper demeanor or decorum, five the on-bench abuse of authority, six for off-bench abuse of authority or misuse of court information, two the failure to ensure rights, and two 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. Four were disciplined for excessive delay in making decisions and/or falsely declaring that they had no cases under advisement for more than 90 days, two for improper ex parte communications, and three for “miscellaneous off-bench conduct.”
The commission reported disciplining two judges for abuse of the contempt or sanctions power, and two for failure to ensure rights.
Other grounds for which judges were disciplined were commenting on a pending case, failure to cooperate with regulatory authorities, improper business or financial activities, improper political activities, misuse of court resources, nonperformance of judicial functions, criminal conduct not involving substance abuse, and engaging in sexual harassment or making inappropriate comments about gender in the workplace.
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 assuming a prosecutorial role in multiple cases and displaying “poor demeanor toward counsel and embroilment,” making “demeaning and sarcastic remarks toward counsel during trial, failing to decide multiple cases and filing false salary affidavits, using the prestige of the court to advance a relative’s financial interests, becoming involved in a campaign for nonjudicial office, making comments suggestive of an attempt to coerce a plea, and trying to help a family member by directing staff to place a court certification on a non-court document.
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