Thursday, March 24, 2016
CJP Publicly Admonishes Judge Patrick Connolly
Finds He Was Embroiled With Attorney, Abused His Authority
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Connolly—who, in running for a judgeship in 2008, described himself as “pugnacious”—yesterday received a public admonishment from the Commission on Judicial Performance based on bellicose conduct toward a criminal defense attorney.
Evoking the judge’s ire was a statement by attorney Freddie Fletcher, at a sidebar conference, that a courtroom observer saw the prosecutor signaling a police officer who was testifying as to how to answer a question by shaking her head. Connolly, who was a deputy district attorney at the time of his successful run for the bench, told Fletcher he had not seen her do that, termed the allegation “outrageous,” and declared that “we will take this up at a later time.”
Following the “not guilty” verdict on July 30, 2010, Connolly held a series of post-trial hearings, which the commission termed “unauthorized” because no order to show cause re contempt had been issued. The judge excluded Fletcher from an evidentiary hearing; held ex parte conferences with the prosecutor; and summoned transcripts from Long Beach to gain information concerning Fletcher’s conduct in another judge’s courtroom.
“The commission found that Judge Connolly’s conduct in these proceedings reflected embroilment and constituted an abuse of authority,” the statement of facts and reasons said, adding:
“Judge Connolly violated his duty to respect and comply with the law and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary (canon 2A), to be faithful to the law (canon 3B(2)), to perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice and refrain from speech or other conduct that would reasonably be perceived as bias or prejudice (canon 3B(5)), to refrain from improper ex parte communications (canon 3B(7)), and to maintain high standards of conduct (canon 1).”
The commission observed that in conducting the hearing, Connolly “gave the appearance that he was conducting an independent investigation into the attorneys’ conduct, which was beyond the scope of his authority.”
It opined that Fletcher’s utterance of an allegation concerning the prosecutor could not have actually constituted a contempt because it did not interfere with the proceeding.
The report indicates that on Feb. 23, 2011, Connolly told Fletcher he was taking the contempt matter off calendar, and would consider combining the matter in his courtroom with the one in Long Beach, and might issue a monetary sanction pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure §177.5. The final outcome is not stated.
In a written statement yesterday, Fletcher advised that there was no further action by the judge. He wrote:
“Since Judge Connolly only took off calendar his prosecution of me for contempt and never dismissed the charge, I’ve lived with the threat that his prosecution would resume or be used against me or my client if I appeared in his courtroom again.
“The decision of the judicial commission relieves me of some of the fear caused by that threat and gives me some assurance that the prosecution won’t be resumed.
“The judicial commission refreshes my faith in our judicial system, and vindicates my decision to not file a complaint against Judge Connolly and to rely on my faith that his abuse of authority would be exposed and meet the consequences it deserves.”
The report noted that a factor in aggravation was that Connolly had received a private admonishment in 2010. The annual report for that year described the conduct by saying:
“A judge repeatedly used profanity while being interviewed by a reporter and the profanity appeared in the newspaper article. The judge used profanity with counsel in chambers.”
Connolly acknowledged in a 2008 interview with the MetNews that “I curse like a sailor.” He admitted use of considerable profanity during a heated exchange with the assistant district attorney in 2001, an incident that caused Connolly to tender his resignation.
He returned to the office a year later.
In 2000, when District Attorney Gil Garcetti was fighting (unsuccessfully) for a third term, Connolly launched an anti-Garcetti website, “gilgarcetti.com,” containing allegations and jokes about the head of his office.
The Los Angeles County Bar Association in 2008 rated Connolly “not qualified” for the bench.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company