Friday, June 15, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Judge Was Under No Duty to Disqualify Himself Based on Testimony of Anti-Semitic Remark
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff was not obliged to recuse himself from a case because he’s Jewish and the defendant was accused of an anti-Semitic remark, the Court of Appeal for this district has declared.
Nadia Heshmati, a pro per, appealed the imposition of a civil harassment restraining order sought by her neighbor, Cynthia Roman Aaronson, represented by her husband, attorney Arthur Aaronson of the Encino law firm of Aaronson & Aaronson. According to the plaintiff’s testimony, during one confrontation, in May 2015, Heshmati uttered the words:
“Why don’t you f—ing Jews go back to Woodland Hills,” where the Aaronsons previous resided, adding:
“If Hitler had done his job we would not be talking right now.”
On appeal, Heshmati insisted that Beckloff—whom she characterized as “an active member in the Jewish community as an outspoken person of Jewish religious faith”—should have disqualified himself.
Writing for Div. Eight, Presiding Justice Tricia Bigelow pointed out, in an unpublished opinion on Wednesday, that under Code of Civil Procedure §170.1, one basis for disqualification is that a “person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial.” She declared:
“Heshmati’s claim of judicial bias, whether real or perceived, lacks merit. We can confidently say that a fully informed, reasonable member of the public would not doubt the trial judge’s ability to be impartial in this case simply because of his religious affiliation. Indeed, it is generally not a ground for disqualification that a judge is a member of a religious group and the proceeding involves the rights of such a group.”
She cited Code of Civil Procedure §170.2 which enumerates factors that do not constitute grounds for recusal. These include that the judge “[i]s or is not a member of a racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or similar group and the proceeding involves the rights of such a group.”
“We have also reviewed the entire transcript of the hearing, and find no evidence of bias or anything that would raise doubts about the trial judge’s impartiality. As a result, the trial judge was not disqualified.”
In a footnote, she said:
“Heshmati did not move to disqualify the trial judge. Aaronson, however, does not argue forfeiture, and we exercise our authority to consider the merits of her argument.”
The jurist said the record does not support Heshmati’s contention that Beckloff did not allow her witnesses to testify. Nonetheless, she denied Aaronson’s motion for sanctions, saying:
“Although it is difficult to see how a reasonable attorney could conclude this appeal had merit, we are mindful that Heshmati is not an attorney.”
She quoted the 1990 Div. Seven opinion in Kabbe v. Miller where it was said:
“We do not believe it is appropriate to hold a propria persona appellant to the standard of what a ‘reasonable attorney’ should know is frivolous unless and until that appellant becomes a persistent litigant.”
“Aaronson has not presented any clear evidence of subjective bad faith, and this appeal does not appear to fall into the category of the “most egregious conduct.” Under these circumstances, we decline to impose sanctions against Heshmati for filing a frivolous appeal.
The case is Aaronson v. Heshmati, B279469.
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