Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Ex-Jurist Settles With CJP, Agrees Never to Return to Bench
Former Alameda Commissioner Charged With Sarcasm, Appearance of Bias Admits No Wrongdoing
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday approved a settlement with a former Alameda Superior Court commissioner, who agreed never to again seek election or appointment as a bench officer, or to sit as a judge pro tem or referee, resolving misconduct charges brought by the CJP two months ago.
The stipulation between the judicial watchdog and Taylor Culver, a State Bar member since 1976 and a commissioner since 2005, disclosed that he had resigned from the court Nov. 30. The commission released a notice of formal proceedings Oct. 17, citing a laundry list of charges against Culver, who had been facing a special masters’ hearing on Jan. 23.
The commission had accused Culver, who had presided over traffic court in downtown Oakland, of routinely speaking to defendants in a sarcastic and undignified manner, sometimes giving an appearance of a pro-police bias, and taking misdemeanor pleas without the stipulation required when a subordinate judicial officer presides.
He was also accused of taking guilty pleas without informing defendants of the charges, creating an appearance of bias by announcing in court that he would not hear arguments about the amounts of fines, and refusing to consider individual circumstances when defendants ask to perform community service instead of paying fines.
Culver, 72, was featured in a recent East Bay Express feature entitled “The High Cost of Driving While Poor,” taking a localized look at the issue of unaffordable traffic fines, highlighted in the U.S. Department of Justice report on Ferguson, Mo. and recently by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council of California.
The commission also alleged that Culver on occasion commented on the race of his courtroom clerks, and that on the day of an earthquake, he made sexual references to what he would do if he knew he was about to die in an earthquake.
The stipulation approved by the CJP yesterday contains no admission of wrongdoing, but it allows the commission to share the results of its investigation with the State Bar.
Taylor’s attorney, Arthur J. Harris, told the MetNews that Culver viewed the stipulation as “a sufficient resolution of the dispute.” He declined to comment on why Culver left office and settled with the commission just weeks after filing a 60-page answer in which he denied any misconduct and said he believed the CJP had “engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation for the obvious purpose of making his professional life so difficult and miserable, through the constant and ongoing investigations, forcing him to walk away from the job that he has been appointed to perform.”
Harris also declined to comment on whether Taylor, who was an architect before his admission to the State Bar, a prosecutor from 1976 to 1978, and the head of his own law firm from 1978 until his appointment as commissioner, had any future professional plans.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company