Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Discipline Stems From Three-Year Delay in Resentencing Defendant on Remand, Which Drew Ire of Court of Appeal; First Year of the Delay Explained Based on Non-Receipt of Remittitur
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jose I. Sandoval, who was lambasted by the Court of Appeal last October for having failed to resentence a defendant on remand for three years after issuance of the remittur, yesterday drew a public admonishment from the Commission on Judicial Performance based on that time lag.
The commission yesterday also issued a severe public censure to Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Ariadne J. Symons, pursuant to stipulation. She admitted using the prestige of her office in connection with her husband contesting a traffic ticket and without revealing that it was she who was driving when their car went through a red light, recorded by a camera; engaged in improper ex parte communications; and spoke to a party in an inappropriate manner.
The opinion mentions that one year of the delay was attributable to the remittur having been routed to another judge with a delay in it reaching Sandoval.
Violation of Canons
“The commission found that Judge Sandoval’s conduct in failing to manage the case, after becoming aware that it had already languished for a year after the remittitur, violated canon 3 (judges shall perform judicial duties competently and diligently), canon 3B(8) (judges must dispose of all judicial matters promptly and efficiently), and canon 2A (judges shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary).
“Judge Sandoval’s conduct was, at a minimum, improper action.”
Sandoval in 2010 sentenced Dewone T. Smith to 150 years to life in prison for offenses committed while incarcerated at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail. The offenses, committed in 2007, were possession of a weapon while in custody, two counts of resisting an executive officer, and three counts of battery by gassing.
The Court of Appeal in 2012, in an opinion by then-Presiding Justice Robert Mallano (now retired) affirmed the conviction but ordered a resentencing. The California Supreme Court affirmed in 2013.
Div. One issued a remittitur on Aug. 30, 2013. Sandoval resentenced Smith on Oct. 12, 2016.
He again appealed, complaining that he was not permitted to be present at the hearings held in connection with resentencing.
The Court of Appeal for this district on Oct. 4 reversed. Acting Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Victoria Chaney of Div. One wrote:
“After more than 20 continuances spanning more than three years and after repeatedly denying Smith’s requests to be present for his sentencing proceedings, the trial court resentenced Smith to 25 years to life.
“Because Smith had both statutory and constitutional rights to be present for his sentencing and other substantive hearings, and because the People have not shown that the trial court’s error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we reverse the trial court’s order, vacate the sentence a second time, and remand the case for resentencing. In light of the trial court’s three-year delay in resentencing we also order the trial court to transfer the case to a judge other than Judge Jose I. Sandoval for resentencing.”
Delay Was ‘Unconscionable’
She went on to comment:
“The three-year delay between remittitur and resentencing here was unconscionable. The record does not disclose the cause of the vast majority of the more-than-20 continuances. But unless the trial court had already determined when it first started continuing resentencing in this case that it was going to sentence Smith to more than the length of the continuances (taken together with whatever custody and other credits Smith was entitled to), then the delay had the very real possibility of implicating Smith’s liberty rights. We will grant Smith’s request to be resentenced before a different trial judge.”
Seven members of the commission voted for a public admonishment and three wanted the scolding to be private.
There were no formal proceedings in the matter. On May 8, Sandoval’s lawyer, former Los Angeles County Bar Association President Edith R. Matthai, appeared before the commission to argue against imposition of a proposed public admonishment issued on Feb. 14.
Sandoval, a judge since 2001, has waived his right of appeal to the California Supreme Court.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company