Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Commission Charges Merced Judge With Misconduct Over Payments From His Former Law Firm
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday charged a Merced Superior Court judge with unethical behavior in connection with his receipt of $250,000 in payments from his former firm.
In a notice of formal proceedings, the commission said Judge Marc A. Garcia—a 2007 appointee of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—failed to disclose the payments from Merced Defense Associates and its predecessors, either in his “statement of economic interests” in court when attorneys from the firm, known as MDA, appeared before him, or to county officials who renewed the contract after he left the firm.
The commission explained in the notice that the firm was one of several that contracted with Merced County to represented indigent criminal defendants or juveniles charged with delinquency. When MDA dissolved, it agreed to pay Garcia $250,000 at the rate of $4,518, unless the county terminated the firm’s indigent services contract before the amount was fully paid.
Garcia continued to receive payments through August 2012. The payments apparently came to light after a judicial secretary opened an envelope addressed to the judge, who then instructed her not to open his mail in the future, the CJP said.
The commission noted that the judge’s statements of economic interests were sworn to under penalty of perjury. It said the failures to disclose, and to recuse himself from MDA cases, violated the Code of Judicial Ethics, as did Garcia’s agreeing to receive payments after taking offices, for services he would not be performing and his concealment of that fact.
Garcia’s answer to the charges is due March 25. He is represented by Los Angeles attorney Edith Matthai, who did not return a MetNews phone call yesterday.
The Merced Sun-Star reported on its website yesterday that it had made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the judge. The court’s executive officer told the newspaper that Garcia was away from the court until the end of March and would have no comment on the commission charges “at this time.”
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