Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 11, 2024


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C.A. Rejects Allegations Against Judge Kaddo

Opinion Says Attorney Misstates the Facts


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Court of Appeal for this district has rejected the contention that a judgment, pursuant to a jury’s verdict, in favor of the defendant in a personal injury action based on a traffic accident should be reversed on the ground that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James A. Kaddo, throughout the trial, evinced bias against the plaintiff’s lawyer.

At trial, as on appeal, plaintiff Gordana Kirk was represented by Beverly Hills attorney Gabor Szabo. In the appellant’s opening brief on appeal, Szabo declared that Kaddo made “disparaging statements” about his “English, performance, at some point even apologized to the jurors for Szabo’s poor performance and assured the jurors that the Court was as frustrated by Szabo’s poor performance as the jurors must had been.”

He asserted:

“Based on the evidence and the applicable law, no reasonable jury should have found that there was no negligence on the part of [defendant Jesus] Quirino. The verdict simply demonstrates that the majority of the jurors succumbed to the Court’s relentlessly demonstrated bias in favor of Quirino that Kirk was at fault for the collision. Those expressions of bias were sometimes subtle, sometimes quite direct, added up at the end, influencing the jury. Lucretius’s famous line comes to mind, ‘the fall of dropping water wears away the stone’.” Affirmance came yesterday in an unpublished opinion by Alameda Superior Court Judge Rebekah Evenson, sitting on assignment to Div. Seven. She said the accusations of misconduct “largely rest on a misleading summary of what occurred during the trial and omit material context.”

In response to the allegation that Kaddo “made disparaging comments about Kirk’s attorney’s performance in front of the jurors, and at some point, even apologized to the jurors for Kirk’s attorney’s ‘poor performance’,” Evenson said:

“The cited portion of the transcript, however, shows the court actually stated ‘this poor performance,’ not Kirk’s attorney’s performance.  A reasonable interpretation of the record is that the court was merely expressing its frustration at the trial’s slow pace, which the court blamed on both parties.”

Ethic Bias

The lawyer charged that Kaddo “made several negative comments about” his “English, in front of the jury, indicating the judge’s possible ethnic/national origin bias.” He said that “[c]omments could imply nationality/ethnicity bias against Kirk and her attorney, both of whom had accents, as English is their second language,” and pointed to an instance where a judge was removed from office for such conduct.”

Evenson quoted Kaddo as telling Szabo, after he had admitted in his deposition that he caused the accident:

“Do you remember what I said about the way you play with words?  I don’t see a question here that he answered as admitting that he caused the accident. I don’t see those words here, and I don’t appreciate your use of the improper use of the English language.  You’re drawing a conclusion from your questions.  That’s your conclusion in your mind.”

The acting justice wrote:

“Read in context, the court’s statement about improper English language use was in response to what it had determined was Kirk’s attorney’s misleading characterization of Quirino’s deposition testimony, rather than bias.”

‘Playing Games’

Szabo said in the opening brief that Kaddo “kept lecturing disparagingly” him “in front of the jurors,” including saying that he was “playing games.”

Evenson explained:

“The court’s comment was in response to Kirk’s counsel asking essentially the same question for which the court had already sustained an objection….[W]hile courts should refrain from expressing irritation at counsel in the presence of the jury, this comment was not misconduct warranting reversal.”

The visiting jurist wrote:

“Kirk contends the court committed misconduct when it told her attorney, ‘[I]f you’re going to insist on arguing with me, I will report you to the State Bar for making an accusation that you cannot back up.  I don’t want to do that.’ While such a statement made in front of the jury may indeed amount to misconduct, Kirk omits from her brief that the court’s statement was made outside the presence of the jury.  Kirk failed to establish the court’s statements outside the jury’s presence constituted prejudicial misconduct.”

She went on to say:

“Although the trial court’s conduct to both counsel at times ‘left something to be desired’ and some of its comments ‘would have been better left unsaid’…, we conclude Kirk failed to establish prejudicial misconduct warranting a new trial.”

The case is Kirk v. Quirino, B319379.

Quirino was represented by Win D. Doan and Mark P. LaScola of the Long Beach firm of Ford, Walker, Haggerty & Behar.


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