Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • Following a hearing on a complaint by the Judicial Inquiry Commission, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended a judge for 90 days without pay and publicly reprimanded her for, in 5 domestic relations cases, failing to properly exercise her contempt power and entering unlawful orders for arrest and detention that resulted in 5 witnesses and 2 litigants being jailed, or put in fear of immediate incarceration, for an indeterminate amount of time and without notice or a hearing. In the Matter of Batiste, Final Judgment and Order (Alabama Court of the Judiciary August 6, 2013).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to disqualify himself from a case involving a man who contributed to his campaign and whose business took over a debt owed by the campaign and granting the man’s request to serve as his granddaughter’s representative during mediation even though, as a non-attorney, the man was not legally permitted to do so. Jayne, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct August 21, 2013).
  • The Kentucky Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a former senior status special judge for (1) refusing to allow a pro se defendant in a civil case to present any argument because he was not a lawyer, summarily entering an injunction against the defendant, and awarding attorney’s fees of $11,579.20 and (2) his statements to defense counsel and the defendant in a criminal case, for example, that ineffective counsel motions in general are “distasteful to the court.” In re McDonald, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Final Order (Kentucky Commission on Judicial Conduct August 12, 2013).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the Mississippi Supreme Court suspended a judge without pay for 30 days, publicly reprimanded him, and fined him $1,000 for, with full knowledge that he had recused himself from a case, re-inserting himself and issuing arrest warrants for indirect criminal contempt. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Skinner, 119 So. 3d 294 (Mississippi 2013).
  • Based on a stipulation, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline publicly reprimanded a judge for during a murder trial (1) recessing court in the early afternoon on 6 days to attend her daughter’s high school soccer games and (2) to accommodate her personal schedule and for other reasons, conducting proceedings continuously from approximately 1:12 p.m. on December 16, 2010, until the jury returned a verdict at approximately 6:47 a.m. on December 17. In the Matter of Vega, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline August 29, 2013).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a non-lawyer judge for presiding over a speeding charge against his nephew by marriage. In the Matter of Marbot, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 6, 2013).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for (1) serving as a fiduciary in several matters while a full-time judge and (2) falsely responding to a question about his financial liabilities in 4 applications for appointment as a fiduciary prior to becoming a judge. In the Matter of O’Connor, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 12, 2013).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for, in a statement during a town board meeting, linking his disposition of a ticket received by the daughter of a board member to his pay raise. In the Matter of Torregiano, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 26, 2013).

Recent cases

  • Based on an agreement, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly censured a judge for being impatient, discourteous, and undignified toward a public defender in a hearing, toward a deputy prosecuting attorney in 2 hearings in drug court, to a drug court litigant during a hearing, to probation officers, and to members of her court staff. Letter of Censure of McGowan (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission July 13, 2018).
  • Accepting a stipulation of facts and an agreed recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for signing warrants based on affidavits by her relatives; dismissing petitions for orders of protection from domestic abuse without holding the hearings required by statute; presiding over the initial appearance of a relative on a possession of a controlled substance charge, setting the bond at $50,000, and subsequently reducing the bond to $5,000; waiving an expungement fee and directing the clerks to void the receipts and refund the money; and requesting that the county board of supervisors transfer the complainant from her position as justice court clerk because of the complaint. Commission on Judicial Performance v. Curry (Mississippi Supreme Court July 26, 2018).
  • Based on a stipulation and the judge’s consent, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline publicly censured a judge and ordered him to pay a $1,500 fine to a law-related charity for (1) rudeness and sarcasm in 1 criminal case, including threatening to apply duct tape to the defendant’s mouth and (2) muttering under his breath to a defendant convicted of child abuse, “I hope this follows you to prison” in a second case. In the Matter of Smith, Stipulation and order of consent to discipline (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline July 26, 2018).  The judge also agreed that he would complete a National Judicial College course entitled “Ethics and Judging:  Reaching Higher Ground” or a similar class and that his failure to comply with the order would result in his permanent removal.
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a non-lawyer judge for delaying and mishandling a small claims action and failing to mechanically record any court proceedings for more than 8 years. In the Matter of Skinner, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 26, 2018).
  • Following a trial de novo, a Special Court of Review Appointed by the Texas Supreme Court publicly admonished a judge for referencing his judicial title and position to promote a project with his wife called “divorce in peace” that included a book, website, and on-line referral service. In re Roach, Judgment and public admonition (Texas Special Court of Review July 24, 2018).
  • Based on an agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a court commissioner for requiring a defendant to “tattoo” his next court date on his arms in black ink. In re Ponomarchuk, Stipulation, agreement, and order of admonishment (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 20, 2018).

 

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • Granting the petition of the Judicial Standards Commission, the New Mexico Supreme Court removed a judge for (1) having an ex parte conversation with the complaining witness in a domestic violence case and altering a court document; (2) promising a couple he would help them in court with their landlord/tenant case and advising them on how to excuse the other magistrate judge, and (3) giving testimony at the Commission hearing that was not forthright. Inquiry Concerning Rodella, 190 P.3d 338 (New Mexico 2008).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a non-lawyer judge for (1) significant delays in 3 small claims actions and (2) staying a warrant of eviction in a landlord-tenant case based on an ex parte communication and failing to require the holdover tenant to make a deposit with the court, as required by law. In the Matter of Baldwin, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 22, 2008).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for making sexually inappropriate comments to and having unwanted physical contact with several female detention officers. Public Warning of DePena (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 29, 2008).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a former judge for her intimate relationship with a public defender and presiding over matters in which the public defender appeared, becoming highly intoxicated in front of her court staff and revealing details of her sexual encounter with the public defender, and apparently attempting to conceal her misconduct in conversations with the Commission staff and on a voice message to the court administration; the former judge agreed not to perform judicial functions again without the Commission’s approval. In re Hartl, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 1, 2008).
  • Based on a stipulation and agreement, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for requiring a litigant to remove a head covering the litigant maintained was for religious purposes without any inquiry as to the sincerity of the claimed religious belief. In re Stolz, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 1, 2008).

Special presentations

In a recent advisory opinion, the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions identified the conditions under which a judge may make educational presentations to specialty bar associations.  California Formal Advisory Opinion 2018-12.  The committee defined a specialty bar association as one “whose members primarily represent a particular class of litigants on one side in cases before the courts . . . .”

The opinion advised that a judge may make educational presentations to specialty bar associations but conditioned that permission on the judge:

  • Being equally available to give presentations to audiences with opposing interests or viewpoints, and
  • Evaluating whether the frequency of presentations before a particular association or type of association would create an appearance of bias.

Further, the judge’s presentation:

  • Must be neutral in content,
  • Must be presented from a judicial perspective,
  • Must avoid coaching or providing a tactical advantage to the audience, and
  • Must not include statements that may cast doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially.

The committee explained that a “presentation is sufficiently neutral if the judge can give the same presentation to specialty bar associations with members that represent opposing or competing interests or parties.”

The committee stated the promotional materials for the program may identify a judge by judicial title, but the judge should ask to review the materials in advance to ensure that they accurately reflect the neutral and educational nature of the presentation.  If the judge is aware that the materials are inconsistent with the canons, the opinion stated, the judge must take corrective action, which may include giving an oral disclaimer at the time of the presentation.

See also Massachusetts Advisory Opinion 2002-1 (a judge may participate as a speaker or panelist in educational programs sponsored by the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyer, which does not favor any particular category of litigants); Nebraska Advisory Opinion 2006-4 (a judge should not make a presentation on effective motions to suppress in a seminar about successful defense of driving under the influence cases sponsored by the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association); New Mexico Advisory Opinion 2008-6 (a judge may not speak about the domestic violence court over which she presides at a seminar of the state criminal defense lawyers association that prosecutors were not permitted to attend); New York Joint Advisory Opinions 2003-84 and 2003-89 (a judge may participate in education programs sponsored by the National Consumer Law Center or by a legal services group that appears in housing court provided she does not give advice on strategy or tactics to succeed in such cases on behalf of particular clients); New York Advisory Opinion 2003-54 (a judge may be a panelist and lecturer on the law of evidence at the annual meeting of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers provided he does not comment on pending or impending cases and does not indicate a pre-disposition to rule in a particular way concerning legal issues that may come before the him).

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a former judge for, while a judge, contracting with a public university to teach a class for compensation and discussing legal representation with persons after announcing his pending resignation. In re Moberg, Stipulation and Agreement (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct August 6, 1993).

What they said that got them in trouble in the first half of 2018

  • “Mr. Maggot” or “Maggot Man.” Judge referring in court to a man who was the subject of a guardianship proceeding.  Public Admonition of Cross and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 18, 2018) (admonition for this and other misconduct).
  • “This is a redneck court.” Judge at beginning of court session.  Public Warning of Lee and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 18, 2018) (warning).
  • “[A]s white as a piece of wonder bread, gets all kinds of protection and attention from the prosecution office.” Judge describing victim in domestic violence case.  In the Matter Concerning Lord, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 11, 2018) (admonishment for this and related misconduct).
  • ““You can have your temper tantrum outside of my courtroom.” Judge to attorney in courtroom.  In the Matter Concerning Novak, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 30, 2018) (admonishment for this and other misconduct).
  • “You’re an animal,” and “I am not a potted plant.” Judge rejecting agreed-on sentence in plea agreement in domestic violence case.  In re Wilson, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 11, 2018) (admonishment).
  • The municipal court judge is “going to find you guilty and issue you a fine. He knows that, he’s with it, he’s tired of it, the Police Department’s tired of it, alright?”  Judge telling neighbors involved in long-running dispute that any further calls to the police would result in disorderly conduct tickets regardless of the circumstances.  In the Matter of Calvert (Wisconsin Supreme Court June 15, 2018) (15-day suspension without pay for this and related misconduct).
  • “Well, I actually – I remember [this defendant], and I remember thinking he was different than most of the people that I dealt with when I was defense attorney. I remember telling the judge that I felt like it was outside of his character for him to do something like this.  In my dealings with him he was a very respectful young man.”  New judge while sentencing defendant she had represented at the preliminary hearing in the same case.  In re O’Rourke, Stipulation, agreement, and order (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 9, 2018) (admonishment for this and related misconduct).
  • “Show Mr. Andrews for the State. Defendant appears in person, in custody, pro se.  There’s a motion to revoke your probation for failure to comply on file for various reasons.  I find that sufficient.  I revoke your probation and remand you to the custody of the Sheriff’s Office to serve the balance of your sentence.  We’re adjourned.  Parties may withdraw.”  Entire transcript of hearing in which judge revoked a defendant’s probation.  In the Matter of Trigg, 414 P.3d 1203 (Kansas 2018) (censure for this and related misconduct).
  • “This is the time I’ve set for a status hearing so that I could try to get everybody in here and help me figure out the status of these cases. I apologize to all.”  Judge over a year after a post-conviction relief petition was filed and over a year before disqualifying himself from the case without having issued a decision.  Inquiry Concerning Jantzen, Order (Arizona Supreme Court June 15, 2018) (censure for this and related misconduct).
  • “Dragging [my] feet,” no excuses other than “dread” of the case, and “making a decision soon.” Judge to chief judge over a year and a half after taking a case under advisement and approximately 9 months before issuing a decision.  In re Henderson, 812 S.E.2d 826 (North Carolina 2018) (reprimand).
  • “I wanted everything to remain the status quo until we had a chance to review the issue at the motion for a new trial.” Judge explaining to a reporter, while a motion for a new trial was pending, his denial of a request for a protective order at sentencing.  In the Matter Concerning Lord, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance April 11, 2018) (admonishment).
  • “[S]he would be here in hunter orange this morning, in chains, where she would stay and enjoy her Thanksgiving dinner, probably her Christmas dinner as well.” Judge about clerk in ex parte hearing at which he barred her from the courthouse.  In the Matter of Young, 92 N.E.3d 628 (Indiana 2018) (6-day suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “[Y]es, go ahead,” and “[N]o problem.” Judge giving a probationer in veterans court permission to handle a gun, notwithstanding firearms prohibition as a probationary condition.  Inquiry Concerning Day, 413 P.3d 907 (Oregon 2018) (3-year suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “So, I live right there. I’m Judge Atwal from Ramsey County.”  Judge to police officer in traffic stop that led to arrest for driving while impaired.  In the Matter of Atwal, Public reprimand (Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards May 30, 2018) (reprimand for this and related misconduct).
  • “Please Call Me.” Judge on large sign in the front window of his vehicle when he pulled in front of his estranged wife’s vehicle.  In re Sachse, 240 So. 3d 170 (Louisiana 2018) (6-month suspension without pay for a pattern of stalking and harassing his ex-wife).
  • “Mom and Alton are turning over in their graves.” Judge commenting on Facebook about photo showing disorder in house formerly owned by mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law occupied by buyer who had defaulted on contract with estate.  In the Matter of Fisher, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 26, 2018) (admonishment for this and related misconduct).
  • “This murder suspect was RELEASED FROM JAIL just hours after killing a man and confessing to police.”  Judge’s post on Facebook commenting on news story.  In re McLaughlin, Agreed order public reprimand (Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission June 12, 2018) (reprimand).
  • “Fired by Obama to please the Muslims, hired by Trump to exterminate them.” Meme about General James Mattis shared by judge on Facebook.  Public Reprimand of Burkeen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct February 21, 2018) (reprimand).
  • “It goes without saying but the tenant wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier.” Judge on Facebook mocking litigant who appeared before him in an eviction proceedings.  Urie, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct June 12, 2018) (reprimand).
  • “Please help Boys & Girls Club.” Judge using his judicial e-mail account to encourage recipient to purchase lunch tickets for $15 a plate.  In the Matter of Castaneda, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court February 12, 2018) (bar from judicial office for this and other inappropriate uses of state e-mail address).
  • “I can take a lot of things, but I can’t take a liar.” Judge to court clerk about her cooperation in discipline investigation.  In re Tidd, 181 A.3d 14 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2018) (reprimand for this and other misconduct).
  • “I nearly went down on my hands and knees, but was able to right myself.” False statement by judge to commission about confrontation with referee at his son’s soccer game.  Inquiry Concerning Day, 413 P.3d 907 (Oregon 2018) (3-year suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “The Johnson’s [sic] lost the business but continue to make payments on the loan.” False statement about loan default by judge to commission in investigation.  In the Matter Concerning Johnson, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance January 16, 2018) (admonishment for this and other misconduct).

 

Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • Adopting the factual findings of a master, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for communicating his desired disposition of his son’s case to a clerk and participating in a favorable disposition of the matter in chambers with the pro tem judge. Inquiry Concerning Mills, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 30, 2013).
  • Granting the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications, the Iowa Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a part-time judge for wearing his judicial robes and referring to his position as a magistrate in an advertisement for his services as a private attorney. In the Matter of Meldrum, 834 N.W.2d 650 (Iowa 2013).
  • Based on stipulations and the judge’s agreement, the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline publicly reprimanded a former judge for conducting a traffic stop of a teenager, using a badge issued to him as a retired highway patrol officer, seizing her driver’s license and directing her to follow him to a sheriff’s sub-station, then re-directing her to a convenience store, and identifying himself as a judicial officer before returning her driver’s license. In the Matter of Bauer, Order (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline July 12, 2013).