Monday, May 20, 2002
Ex-Judge Censured in Riverside Estates Scandal, Barred From Assignments
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Riverside Superior Court Judge William H. Sullivan was censured Friday by the Commission on Judicial Performance for questionable financial dealings with two trusts that continued after his appointment to the bench.
Sullivan, 74, was also barred from receiving court-assigned work as part of a stipulation approved by an 8-0 vote of the commission. Three members did not participate.
The commission brought charges against Sullivan, who retired at the end of 1999, following an investigation prompted by Riverside County’s conservatorship scandal. A professional conservator and her attorney drew long prison sentences for using their positions to steal more than $1 million from people whose property they were supposed to be protecting.
Sullivan, who presided over the county’s probate court during the period and was a longtime probate and estates lawyer in Riverside before his appointment, was not charged with a crime.
But Barbara Jagiello, a San Francisco attorney who investigated Bonnie Cambalik and her company, West Coast Conservatorships, at the behest of a nonprofit organization that helps senior citizens, expanded her investigation to include the judge’s conduct and filed a lengthy complaint with the CJP.
Sullivan was to face a discipline hearing on March 25 of this year, but the commission postponed it after attorneys reported they were working on an agreement to resolve the charges.
As part of the stipulation, Sullivan admitted that he had, among other things:
•Violated conflict of interest rules by continuing to serve as a trustee for a local resident’s living trust after his appointment to the bench, making unsecured loans to himself from the trust, purchasing assets for the trust from other entities in which he had an interest; and using trust assets to acquire property in his own name and then failing to account to the trust for the appreciation in value;
•Presided over a probate estate worth more than $1 million, despite the fact he had witnessed the will and handled the deceased’s financial affairs before her death and had been given power in the will to appoint a successor trustee; selling to the estate certain notes which he had purchased at a discount, pocketing the appreciation; retaining for himself the interest on payments made on the notes, approving an accounting that did not disclose his interest in the notes, and collecting annual trustee fees;
•Purchased a conservatee’s home while presiding over the conservatorship, advancing on his own motion the date of a court hearing on the sale, thus depriving disinterested parties from an opportunity to bid; and confirming the sale of the property to himself; and
•Violated Government Code ethics provisions by failing to disclose fees he received as a trustee, loans from the trusts, and interests in numerous real properties in Riverside County.
The commission said that Sullivan should never again be allowed to serve as a judicial officer because he “used his judicial position to further his unethical schemes, all of which had the effect, if not the design, of benefiting him financially.”
Sullivan practiced law in Riverside from 1956 until his appointment to the bench by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1987. He briefly returned to judicial office at the beginning of last year, having been named chief justice of the High Court of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
He resigned that post three weeks into his term of office, however, reportedly after officials there learned of Jagiello’s complaint to the CJP.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company