Wednesday, September 17, 2008
San Diego Judge Publicly Censured Over ‘Wet Reckless’ Plea
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance has publicly admonished San Diego Superior Court Judge Lisa Schall over her conviction stemming from a 2007 arrest for drunk driving.
Seven of the commission’s 10 members voted 6-1 to admonish Schall—who is referred to in the admonishment as Lisa Guy-Schall, but who dropped the hyphenation of her name in June—in a letter dated Sept. 5.
Schall, who could not be reached for comment, currently presides over civil trials in the court’s Vista Courthouse, and was arrested on the evening of Sept. 12, 2007 when an officer of the Escondido Police Department conducted a traffic stop after observing her vehicle traveling in the wrong direction on the Centre City Parkway, a divided four-lane highway.
The jurist was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Vehicle Code Sec.23152(a), and driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.08 percent in violation of Sec. 23152(b), after she allegedly failed a field sobriety test, and a blood test performed within the hour indicated a blood alcohol level of approximately 0.09 percent.
She pled guilty to the lesser offense of alcohol-related reckless driving in March.
The commission wrote that Schall’s unlawful conduct “evidence[d] a serious disregard of the principles of personal and official conduct embodied in the California Code of Judicial Ethics,” and violated canons one and two of the code, which require that members of the judiciary maintain high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved, respect and comply with the law, and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
“[A]t a minimum,” the commission said, Schall’s conduct was “improper action pursuant to article VI, section 18(d)(3) of the California Constitution,” and voted 6-to-1 in favor of public admonishment.
In determining that a public admonishment was appropriate, the commission noted that Schall had previously received a private admonishment in 1995 and a public admonishment in 1999. The private admonishment addressed Schall’s embroilment in a juvenile dependency case, the commission said, while the public admonishment addressed her abuse of the contempt power during a 1995 incident in which Schall ordered a defendant appearing before her for a hearing on a petition for a restraining order to exit the courtroom.
Schall had found the defendant in direct contempt and sentenced her to five days in jail without citing the defendant for contempt, having the defendant returned to the courtroom, or stating the facts sufficient to constitute contempt. The jurist did not acknowledge any problems with her handling of the matter to the commission.
Then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Schall to the San Diego Municipal Court in 1985 and to the Superior Court in 1989. A native of Annapolis, Md., she was reared in Southern California and served eight years as a deputy district attorney in San Diego before taking the bench.
Schall attended Western State University College of Law—now the Thomas Jefferson School of Law—where she earned a joint bachelor’s and law degree in 1977, as well as California State University, San Diego, and previously serviced as the supervising criminal judge in Vista and as head of the court’s Rules Committee.
Orange Superior Court Judge Frederick B. Horn, the commission chairman, attorney Peter Flores, and public members Barbara Schraeger, Maya Dillard-Smith, Sandra Talcott and Nathaniel Trives voted to impose a public admonishment.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein voted to impose a private admonishment, while Presiding Justice Judith D. McConnell of the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Div. One and attorney Marshall Grossman were recused.
Public members Samuel A. Hardage and Lawrence Simi did not participate.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company