By Roger M. Grace
The assistant city prosecutor in Long Beach wants to become “Judge Fudge.”
While that has a funny sound to it, there are those who view the prospect of Randall “Randy” Charles Fudge ascending to the bench as being not in the least amusing.
One deputy public defender who handles misdemeanors in Long Beach asserts:
“Randall Fudge is the last person who should be given the power of the robe.”
That was one of several comments the METNEWS has received from persons who spoke on condition of their names being withheld. One deputy PD—Geeta Bahl—was willing to be identified, and had plenty to say. She wrote:
I am a Public Defender who has been practicing for 16 years, and for the last 10 years, I have been assigned to the Long Beach courthouse. In Long Beach, I have defended multiple criminal cases opposite Assistant Long Beach City Prosecutor Randy Fudge.
Hearing about Mr. Fudge’s bid for judicial office was alarming—and prompted me to write this letter. I have seen and even supported many prosecuting attorneys for judge, I have never taken the time to pen my opposition to a judicial candidate.
In his professional capacity, Mr. Fudge can best be characterized as deeply unpleasant, vindictive and unethical. In my estimation, he is the last person who should be considered for the bench.
Unlike most prosecutors, Mr. Fudge seems to harbor a profound animus for indigent criminal defendants (largely minorities and the disenfranchised) and often, their attorneys. Mr. Fudge is a supervisor and does not appear in court often, but he has been known to specially appear to argue motions he has taken special interest in.
In general, opposing counsel argue motions daily, but with a sense of decorum and respect for one another and the court. Mr. Fudge, however, takes his work very personally and loses his temper often. When he appears in court to personally oppose defense motions, his manner is uniquely hostile and ferocious. Mr. Fudge’s tone has often been rabid, contemptuous and full of repugnance for the defense.
One can harbor strong biases while still maintaining professionalism. However, Mr. Fudge lacks civility, professionalism and anger management skills. He is not only deeply biased and hateful, but also impatient, discourteous and very rude.
Randy Fudge lacks impartiality, ethics, integrity, civility and the temperament befitting a judgeship. He brings with him the specter of impropriety and would demean the prestige and honor of the judicial office.
Randy Fudge is the most unfit candidate for judge that I can think of.
Bahl might have a grudge against the candidate. Fudge made the decision in 2016 to prosecute a man who, Anthony Teague, for being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest, making that call three days before the one-year statute of limitations elapsed. Bahl became his lawyer. That filing was motivated, Bahl asserted, by vindictiveness—Teague had just submitted a claim against the city alleging police brutality—and in hopes of securing a conviction so as to preclude civil liability. In testimony before then-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina (later a Court of Appeal justice, now back in private), Fudge denied the allegations; Dhanidina turned down Bahl’s motion to recuse the City Prosecutor’s Office; Teague was acquitted.
And Bahl, too, has detractors. One Los Angeles Superior Court judge comments:
“There are many people who are not a fan of her for, ironically, similar reasons she cites as negatives about Mr. Fudge: can best be characterized as deeply unpleasant, vindictive and unethical. I would be cautious of her comments.”
That having been noted, Bahl’s allegations cannot simply be dismissed in light of corroborative remarks—such as that of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who says:
“Unfortunately, the sentiment expressed in the note, in my experience, is not inaccurate. My experience with Mr. Fudge, however, is limited. I interacted with him, for roughly 1.5 years, while handling a misdemeanor assignment in 2014-2015. During that period he was infrequently in court. On the rare occasions that I did observe him, he did not appear to treat others well—he presented as arrogant, unkind, impatient, and generally lacking in civility. I would be very surprised if many bench officers endorse his candidacy.”
No endorsements are listed on his campaign website, but Fudge points to those he has received from three Los Angeles Superior Court judges. He alludes to those endorsements in a letter responding to what Bahl, and others quoted below, had to say about him, declaring:
“I have a good working relationship with the Long Beach defense bar and regularly engage with Long Beach defense attorneys and judges in the Long Beach Bar Association and other outside groups. You shared with me that public defender Geeta Bahl and other anonymous individuals have expressed some negative opinions regarding me. While it is difficult to respond to anonymous opinions, from the comments that you received, it appears that such opinions are based upon rumor or very limited interaction/observation. I have practiced in the Long Beach courthouse for approximately 28 years and judges who know me—Judges [Patrick T.] Madden, [Judith] Meyer, and Ong—have endorsed my judicial candidacy.
“Criminal court proceedings are adversarial in nature. It is not surprising that public defenders may be upset about certain cases; however, isolated incidents (especially isolated incidents occurring over six years ago) should not be the basis of an opinion.”
“Although quite shocked at the level of negative comments for Mr. Fudge, I personally have not experienced what was expressed. I have had limited contact with Mr. Fudge during my earlier years at Long Beach Courthouse in the misdemeanor court, additionally at Long Beach Bar and Inns of Court events. He has always been quite cordial and respectful to me. I never had any difficulties with him on a record. I will admit, I’ve never had a complicated case with him either. I believe they were all just arraignments or settlements. He has never done a trial in front of me.”
A civil practitioner mentions:
“I have never been in court with Randy Fudge, but in his actions on the Long Beach Bar Association Board and scholarship committee with me, he has proven to be very passionate about the things he believes in. He is not rude or insulting but argues his point in a very persuasive and strong manner. I do not believe this means he would not be a good judge.”
Other assessments of Fudge are of a negative nature. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge offers these words:
I have heard it said that he has a bad temper but I have never seen him lose his temper.
As for his abilities or lack thereof, I am not a fan. On the few occasions he appears in court, his performance is marginal at best.
R. Fudge apparently was a deputy city prosecutor for the city of Long Beach from 1995 to 2000. According to his election website, from 2000 to 2010, he was a deputy city attorney for Long Beach. In 2010, he was hired on as the Assistant City Prosecutor for Long Beach.
According to this same website, as the assistant, he wrote: “In addition to taking complex cases to trial, I oversee training to ensure that our attorneys enforce the law in an ethical, fair, and just manner.” As for trying complex cases, I am not aware of his trying complex much less any cases since he was named assistant. As for training, he has been summoned to meet with the judges regarding the city prosecutors under his supervision. A common complaint is the lack of training and preparation of the city prosecutors under his care. Another common complaint is failure to comply with the rules of discovery. In his office, there is a cavalier approach to turning over discovery which includes Brady material or exculpatory evidence that is favorable to the defense.
To my knowledge, Mr. Fudge never approached any judge to ask for input or opinions of the prosecutors under his supervision. During trial, to my knowledge, Mr. Fudge does not supervise deputy city prosecutor. So, when is his supervision taking place? There is no better place to supervise than when his underlings are in trial. Regrettably, there is paucity of supervision. His city prosecutors make the same mistakes, over and over again. Unfortunately, the deputy city prosecutors have little if any training. The deputy public defenders, deputy city attorneys and deputy district attorneys are far better trained and experienced.
If Mr. Fudge’s lack of supervision, tutelage and training of those he claims to supervise, tutor and train is any indication, imagine his performance as a judge.
The deputy public defender who termed Fudge “the last person who should be given the power of the robe” continued:
The Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office has a reputation amongst the attorneys and bench here for being late on discovery, poorly trained in handling motions and trials, and generally sloppy. This is not the fault of the line deputies, who are often young and inexperienced. The fault lies with the supervisors and trainers. There’s a reason that Long Beach City Prosecutor’s have a hard time getting hired at other prosecuting agencies.
Mr. Fudge is the longest serving member of that office. He’s been in an administrative role for years. When the current City Prosecutor, Doug Haubert, was elected, there was a mass exodus from that office, largely because Randall Fudge was promoted to his current position.
When Mr. Fudge comes to court, he is unprepared, belligerent, and shirks responsibility.
For example, in October 2022, he assigned himself to cover department 7 of the Long Beach Courthouse. I watched him invade the personal space of multiple female colleagues. Mr. Fudge seems to relish in bullying young women attorneys.
I had a client with no prior record, who had finished all of his obligations and completed 2.5 out of 3 years of his summary probation. He was seeking early termination of probation so he could better position himself to apply for jobs. Mr. Fudge said he was objecting and demanded a written motion, so we set a date three weeks later, which is his right as the People.
The pettiness and practiced incompetence came up when I asked him for an email to send my motion to, and he refused to provide one. I asked why he was objecting, he said “because” and turned his chair away from me. When we came back three weeks later, the deputy prosecutor assigned to handle the calendar that day had no record of the prior date, no notes, and no idea what had happened.
In essence, Mr. Fudge had insisted on covering the court for a week, but on all the cases he handled he did nothing, objected to everything, and failed to follow through on his promises. This basically ended up being a lost week in a time when the courts are already congested and everyone else is working their tail off to manage the backlog from Covid-19.
From speaking with current and former prosecutors in his office, in an office with a lot of struggles, Mr. Fudge is THE problem in that office. They have had over 1/3 of their line attorneys quit in the past twelve months. Most of the people who join that office are well-meaning and eager to serve the interests of justice. They are set up to fail by their bosses, and Randy Fudge has the primary responsibility for overseeing the day to day operations.
Nothing he has done in my experience and conversations with people who know him has demonstrated fitness for the judiciary.
Other deputy public defenders say:
•Bahl’s statements “are consistent with what I have heard about him by reputation.”
•“I rarely work with Mr. Fudge in court (and he rarely comes to court), but he definitely lacks a judicial temperament.”
•“Although it was years ago, I do recall Mr. Fudge in court. I remember him advocating for unreasonable penalties for our indigent clients.
“Mr. Fudge sought the harshest sentence possible on very low level misdemeanors. Mr. Fudge never cared to weigh mitigating circumstances specific to these cases. He is so pro prosecution, it is hard to imagine him as an unbiased judge.
“I am concerned about his ability to thoughtfully consider the very real struggles of indigent defendants.”
•“More than once, I have seen Mr. Fudge cite a case and claim the court held the exact opposite of what the court actually held. Colleagues have told me they have witnessed Mr. Fudge do the same. I do not know if this is due to an ethical failure or if it is a reflection of laziness when reading the cases. Either way, it is highly undesirable in a judicial officer.”
Fudge’s present position is in jeopardy. On the June 7 ballot in Long Beach is a three-way race for the post of city prosecutor. One of the candidates is incumbent Doug Haubert, who assumed office in 2010. Should Fudge not be elected to a judgeship, and if Haubert does gain another term, it’s likely he’ll keep Fudge on board.
But Haubert has two determined competitors who would not be expected to retain Fudge as assistant prosecutor.
One challenger is Deputy Public Defender George Moyer. He won’t comment on any staffing plans, but as to whether he views Fudge as fit for a judgeship, he answers, “no,” explaining:
“Based on my conversations with attorneys who have direct experiences with Mr. Fudge, including former Deputy City Prosecutors, I believe he has enabled some of the worst practices of the office, including filing cases like the one against Mr. Teague, and has created a generally toxic work environment that chases off hardworking ethical lawyers.”
The other candidate for city prosecutor is Nick Liddi III, who is known to be a critic of Fudge.
Copyright 2022, Metropolitan News Company