Thursday, January 16, 2003
Alameda Superior Court Judge’s Discipline Hearing Put Off to March by CJP
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Next week’s scheduled hearing for an Alameda Superior Court judge accused of having improperly used his authority to help his daughter and the daughter of an acquaintance with cases before the court, along with other acts of misconduct, has been postponed, the Commission on Judicial Performance said yesterday.
The public hearing for Judge D. Ronald Hyde, which was to begin Tuesday, is now set for March 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals headquarters in San Francisco. The special masters who will hear the case, appointed by the California Supreme Court, are Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Joseph F. Biafore Jr., Shasta Superior Court Judge Bradley L. Boeckman, and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Talmadge R. Jones.
The commission initiated proceedings against the 58-year-old jurist in June. Six counts of misconduct were originally charged, but a seventh count was added late last year in an amended notice.
Hyde’s attorney, James Murphy of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment on the continuance. He previously predicted that the hearing would go forward, saying he and the judge “feel fairly confident in our position” that Hyde did nothing wrong.
Hyde is accused of manipulating the small-claims calendar at the Pleasanton courthouse where he sits, so that an attorney he knew through the Rotary Club would be sitting as temporary judge to hear Suzanne Hyde’s small-claims case. Hyde claims he forgot the case was on the monthly night-court calendar until hours before it was to be heard, so he arranged for attorney John Harding-who is on the county’s small claims temporary judge panel-to hear the calendar instead.
Suzanne Hyde won her case.
Hyde said in his response that he had no cases pending in which Harding was involved and has had no such cases since, that Harding’s integrity was beyond question, and that there have been no financial dealings between Harding and himself or his daughter.
The judge also denied that he 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. He acknowledged that she called him ex parte, but said he told her she would have to file a formal request, which she did.
The judge said he did not have a close relationship with the woman’s father, who is the president of the Pleasanton school board, although they supported some of the same local charities. He granted her request, he said, in accord with the usual practice at the Pleasanton courthouse that misdemeanor probation be terminated early if the defendant has complied with all requirements and needs early termination in order to enter the military.
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.
The commission issued Hyde a severe public censure in May 1996 for a variety of misdeeds, some similar to those of which he’s now accused. Hyde didn’t challenge the censure, writing to the commission that he was “aware of the inappropriateness of the actions ... and these actions will not be repeated in the future.”
Murphy said last year that Hyde should not have accepted the censure, which may now be treated as an aggravating factor with regard to discipline if the CJP determines that the new charges have been proven.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company