CJP Publicly Admonishes Superior Court Judge Spear
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emily T. Spear yesterday incurred a public admonishment from the state’s disciplinary body which pointed to her finagling and falsehoods.
The Commission on Judicial Performance (“CJP”) said in its written decision:
“In light of the number of incidents of misconduct, the judge’s lack of insight into the seriousness of her misconduct, and the fact that some of her misconduct reflected a lack of integrity…, the commission has determined that a public admonishment is the appropriate discipline.”
Summing up Spear’s misconduct, the commission said:
“[I]n 2021 and 2022, while she was assigned to the Family Law Division at the Compton Courthouse, Judge Spear engaged in a pattern of behavior that conveyed a persistent disregard and disrespect for her judicial and administrative obligations, for her judicial colleagues, and for her supervising judges and court administration. Judge Spear’s misconduct included numerous unauthorized and undocumented absences and early departures from court; disparaging remarks about a judicial colleague; discourteous conduct toward, and false statements to, her supervising judge; and manipulation of her calendar for personal benefit.”
In one instance, the CJP recited, Spear was scheduled to be on vacation the week of Sept. 6, 2022 (Monday, Sept. 5, being a court holiday, Labor Day). She asked Judge Connie Quinones for the following week off, in addition, but her request was denied because there was no one to cover for her that week and she did not have additional vacation days coming, under the guidelines.
She then asked Amy Pellman, who was the supervising judge of the Family Law Division, for permission to extend her vacation through the week of Sept. 12, not telling of the denial by Quinones, and representing that only “minimal coverage” was needed because her calendar for the week of Sept. 12 consisted of “only a few restraining orders and TROs” when, in truth, there were several matters on calendar. Pellman, noting the duplicity, turned down the request.
Without seeking permission, Spear told her staff in August to continue matters scheduled for Friday, Sept. 2, to Tuesday, Sept. 6, when she would not be present, so she could take Sept. 2 off.
Judge Esther Kim had been assigned to cover for Spear the week of Sept. 6. When she learned of Spear’s instruction to her staff, she reported it to Pellman, who phoned Spear on or about Aug. 24.
Spear represented, untruthfully, that Kim has asked her to shove the Sept. 2 matters to Sept. 6 and evinced exasperation with Pellman.
The decision sets forth:
“The commission concluded that, by asking Supervising Judge Pellman for time off when Site Supervising Judge Quinones had already denied the same request (and without telling Judge Pellman that Judge Quinones had denied the request), by falsely telling Judge Pellman that she had moved hearings from September 2 to September 6 because Judge Kim had told her to do so, and by underreporting what she had on calendar the week she wanted off, all for the purpose of extending her vacation, Judge Spear exhibited dishonest conduct and a lack of integrity that is not befitting a judicial officer.”
“The commission further concluded that Judge Spear engaged in misconduct when, without notice to her judicial colleague, she continued matters on her September 2 calendar to a later date on which she knew Judge Kim would be covering for her, for the purpose of taking an unplanned and unauthorized day off. The commission acknowledges that judges must, from time to time, continue matters because of personal circumstances, and that doing so is not necessarily misconduct. But here, Judge Spear’s entire course of conduct surrounding her efforts to extend her September 2022 vacation reflects manipulation and dishonesty to get what she wanted, even though she did not have sufficient vacation time to cover the days off she sought. She did not ask her supervising judge for September 2 off, which would have been the appropriate (and required) way to take a vacation day. Instead, she continued matters on her calendar so that her absence would not be noticed. And in doing so, she added to Judge Kim’s workload, without discussing it with her first (or even informing her afterwards).”
Spear was found to have displayed rudeness to Pellman in connection with the effort to extend her vacation and had engaged in “disrespectful conduct” toward Pellman earlier in attempting to counsel her in December 2021.
Also, she made “disparaging and profane remarks” about Kim in October 2021 after Kim declined to take a matter off Spear’s hands. The remarks were made in a telephone conversation with Commissioner Kimberly Dotson.
However, the comments were heard by “many of the approximately 29 judicial officers at the Compton Courthouse,” the decision and order says. Spear was logged on to a weekly meeting of Compton bench officers, via electronic conferencing, and was apparently unaware that her conversation with Dotson had not been muted.
The CJP observed:
“Judge Spear asserts that her misconduct is mitigated by a number of factors. In both her response to the preliminary investigation, her objections to the notice of tentative public admonishment, and at her appearance before the commission, Judge Spear argued that her health problems—which she characterized as significant, serious, and potentially life threatening—were well known to her supervising judges and the cause of the majority of her misconduct. Judge Spear, however, presented minimal evidence in support of her claim. And, while in her objections and at her appearance before the commission, Judge Spear claimed that she has received ‘glowing’ and ‘outstanding’ reviews of her current performance from her supervising judges, she presented no evidence to the commission in support of this claim.”
The decision continues:
“Further, Judge Spear argues that she has accepted responsibility for her misconduct and is remorseful. Although at her appearance before the commission, Judge Spear acknowledged the impropriety of some of her conduct, in her response to the preliminary investigation she consistently defended her conduct and directed blame towards her colleagues and supervising judges.”
Spear was elected to the Superior Court in 2018. She was, at the time, a deputy district attorney.
In endorsing her election opponent, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Armando Durón, told the METNEWS commented that Spear “at 36, acts like a teenager and tells little white lies.”
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