Friday, July 11, 2003
CJP Schedules Arguments on Bay Area Judge Accused of Misconduct
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance has scheduled arguments on the fate of a recently retired Alameda Superior Court judge accused of making improper sexually explicit comments, manipulating a court docket to benefit a family member, and other misconduct.
Judge D. Ronald Hyde, who sat in Pleasanton until his retirement last month, faces possible censure, and could be barred from performing court-assigned work, after the commission meets Aug. 27 at the Ninth Circuit’s facility on Seventh Street in San Francisco.
A panel of special masters appointed by the Supreme Court found, after an April hearing, that Hyde had been discourteous and demeaned the judiciary when, during a visit to the Pleasanton courthouse by the court’s new executive officer, he told an anecdote about a court worker engaging in oral sex with another man in a courthouse parking lot years earlier.
The language Hyde used, the masters said, was graphic and inappropriate for an audience of men and women with whom the judge was not on close terms. The panel also noted that Hyde received a severe public censure in May 1996 for a variety of misdeeds, including making sex-related comments to female court employees.
The masters also found that Hyde manipulated the small-claims calendar at the Pleasanton courthouse so that an attorney he knew through the Rotary Club would be sitting as temporary judge to hear a small-claims case involving his daughter, Suzanne Hyde.
The masters concluded that while the attorney was not a close friend of the judge and did not give his daughter favored treatment, Hyde acted unethically and created at least an appearance of impropriety in not continuing the case and in personally selecting the judge pro tem, regardless of whether this affected the outcome.
The panel also found that Hyde:
•Engaged in “unjudicial conduct” by asking a traffic clerk to run a Department of Motor Vehicles check on a driver who had cut him off in traffic.
•Took “improper action” by granting an early termination of probation, based upon a defendant’s ex parte written request, without notifying counsel.
•Showed favoritism or failed to disclose a conflict in the case of a woman who asked to have her drunk-driving probation cut short so that she could enter the Air Force. The masters found that the judge was a friend of the woman’s father, the president of the Pleasanton school board, and should have recused himself or at least disclosed the conflict before granting the request.
•Improperly helped the wife of a domestic violence defendant on his calendar pursue marriage dissolution proceedings. The judge had an improper ex parte communication with the woman, the masters found.
•Improperly and “without authority” communicated with another judge about a felony drug case in which Hyde had been disqualified, asking the judge not to reduce the defendant’s bail, which Hyde had increased from $60,000 to $350,000.
Then-Gov. Jerry Brown named Hyde, a family law attorney, to the Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin Municipal Court bench in 1982. He became a superior court judge when Alameda trial courts were consolidated in 1999.
His retirement was based on his completion of 20 years of service and not to the misconduct charges, he told reporters at the time.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company