Friday, May 15, 2020
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday publicly admonished Sacramento Superior Court Judge Matthew J. Gary, pursuant to a stipulation, based on various breaches of ethics committed in a single family law case in which he became personally embroiled and made improper remarks.
The judge had received discipline twice before in family law matters.
Acknowledging his embroilment, he said at a Dec. 7, 2018 hearing:
“I hate it that I have been brought into this personally. I hate it. That is not the role of a judge, and frankly, it’s not the role of parties to involve a judge like has happened here.”
Gary was reportedly moved out of a family law courtroom in 2014 based on complaints about Gary and his courtroom clerk, assigned to probate matters, then to misdemeanors but, after more complaints there, reassigned to family law.
The stipulated facts include various wisecracks made by Gary in the course of In re Marriage of Battilana over which he presided from January 2017 to December 2018.
Criticizing the parties for eating up their meager savings in attorney fees, he remarked:
“Way to go. Way to go. I’m done.
“Go off to trial, burn it all up. Good luck.
“And good luck to [the child], because it ain’t going to turn out well for her.
“This is unbelievable.”
On one occasion he said to the wife’s attorney:
“[Y]ou’re about to come out of your underwear there. What do you need?”
A retired licensed clinical social worker testified that she heard the child, age 2, relate that her father was going to die, and opined that a child that young ordinarily does not understand death. Gary launched into a prolix dissertation on religion during which he remarked:
“The Christian religion, you will have everlasting life, John 3:16. If you go through that, what is the purpose for that for adults? This is all commentary on the side. It’s so that you don’t have to face the permanence of death.”
Accusations Against Parents
The decision notes:
“Throughout multiple proceedings, Judge Gary accused the parents of damaging their child (‘[H]ow bad do you want to ruin your child,’ ‘And good luck to [the child], because it ain’t going to turn out well for her,’ and ‘[S]he’s going to get divorced. And your grandkid is going to go through the same things she’s going through because this is all she knows.’). Judge Gary’s remarks to and about the parents were undignified and discourteous…, could also be reasonably perceived as reflecting bias or prejudice…, and failed to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary….”
The commission declared:
“Judge Gary’s multiple instances of misconduct while presiding over the Battilana family law matter failed to comport with high judicial standards and undermined public respect for the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Judge Gary’s loss of objectivity and neutrality, his lack of courtesy and dignity when addressing those appearing before him, and his improper comments about religion violated the canons of judicial ethics.”
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