Thursday, June 28, 2001
CJP Slates July Misconduct Hearing for Superior Court Judge Couwenberg
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A July 19 hearing has been slated for embattled Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg before the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
The public hearing is limited to argument concerning a report prepared in May by a panel of special masters, who concluded that the commission could have cause to remove Couwenberg from the bench for misconduct.
Couwenberg is accused of lying about his military, educational and professional background.
After next month’s hearing, the commission will determine whether punishment is warranted, and could consider a letter of admonishment or more serious actions up to removal from the bench.
The commission a year ago formally charged Couwenberg with having lied on his judicial application and elsewhere. The special masters conducted a full evidentiary hearing in Los Angeles in February.
Next month’s hearing is scheduled to take place in San Francisco in a courtroom of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is limited to arguments on the special masters’ report.
Earlier this month, commission lawyer Jack Coyle filed a brief in which he asserted that Couwenberg must be removed for persistent lies about his military service and his educational and professional experience.
Couwenberg’s lawyers answered with a brief asserting that the special masters’ findings failed to take into account the numerous letters and testimony in the judge’s support, his traumatic upbringing in wartime Indonesia, or the opinions of mental health professionals that he suffers from “pseudologica fantastica,” a condition that compels him to make up stories about himself.
Couwenberg is continuing to hear criminal cases in Norwalk.
He was appointed to the bench in 1997 by Gov. Pete Wilson after claiming that he was a military veteran with experience in covert operations, earned a master’s degree from Cal State Los Angeles in psychology, and attended Loyola Law School and California Institute of Technology.
None of it was true. Couwenberg acknowledged at the special masters’ hearing that he was in the Naval reserve and went to Cal Poly Pomona and Western State University College of Law, then La Verne College Law Center before failing the bar exam five times.
Other falsehoods asserted in other arenas included that he worked at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and that he was a covert operative for the CIA in Laos in the Vietnam war era.
The commission hearing is set for 2 p.m. on July 19 in Courtroom One at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 95 Seventh Street, San Francisco.
The briefs submitted by Couwenberg and by the commission counsel are available for public inspection at the commission’s San Francisco office.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company