Tuesday, September 18, 2001
CJP Charges Indio Jurist With Violating Due Process Rights in Four Cases
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Riverside Superior Court judge was charged by the Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday with having violated the rights of parents in four separate dependency proceedings to proper notice.
The judge, in a verified answer, said the commission was attempting to turn claims of legal error into a disciplinary matter and called the charges a threat to judicial independence.
Judge Eugene R. Bishop who sits in Indio, was accused of depriving Anna K., as she was identified by the commission, of due process in a 1997 case “by removing her children, Daniel and Shayne K., from her home without notice or a reasonable opportunity to be heard.”
The commission alleges that Bishop ordered removal of the children at a six-month review hearing for another child, even though there was no notice to the mother that such action was being considered.
Bishop did so at the request of the attorney representing all three children, the commission said in its notice of formal proceedings, even though several Welfare and Institutions Code sections require that formal notice be given prior to the hearing.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the judge “violated the mother’s right to basic due process under the federal and state constitutions and violated several statutes,” the commission noted.
In another case, Bishop allegedly violated the due process rights of William B., a state prisoner and the father of Anthony B., by failing to give the father notice of hearings held in 1997 and 1998 and by failing to appoint counsel to represent his interests.
Anthony was adjudged dependent and placed in foster care, the commission said, even though state law prohibits such action from being taken with respect to a prisoner’s child unless the prisoner or his or her counsel is present, or the prisoner has executed a waiver.
Bishop subsequently terminated the prisoner’s parental rights, without proper notice, a ruling that the appellate court—which called the proceedings “egregious” and “fundamentally unfair”—reversed.
In a third case, the commission told Bishop, “you violated the due process rights of Penelope P. and abused your authority” by granting custody of Shawn P. to his father without notice to the mother—who had been awarded custody in family law proceedings—at a detention hearing. The order was improper because the mother had no notice that the issue would be considered that day and because no finding of dependency was made, the commission said.
The Court of Appeal reversed, saying Bishop “violated the mother’s basic rights” and exceeded his jurisdiction.
In the fourth case, the commission alleged, Bishop violated the due process rights of Emily D.’s parents and grandparents by placing the child in a non-relative foster home without granting visitation rights, even though the child had been living with the grandparents and neither they nor the parents had been notified of the potential removal.
Bishop’s attorney, James E. Friedhofer, provided the MetNews with a copy of the judge’s answer, which was to be filed with the commission yesterday. In it, he contended that the judge “made rulings and took actions that he thought were in the best interests of those children,” relying heavily on minors’ counsel or on the lawyers representing the county social service agency.
He denied that the judge ever knowingly deprived any litigant of notice to which the person was entitled.
Friedhofer castigated the commission, claiming Bishop is the latest in a string of judges who were accused of misconduct for having committed “legal error with unpopular results.” He cited the cases of several judges who were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by the commission or the Supreme Court.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company