Thursday, January 7, 2010

Those Judicial Commissions Really Protect Their Own

Those Judicial Commissions Really Protect Their Own

Filed under: California, Corrupt Judges, Judge Peter McBrien — justice4mothers @ 7:25 pm

This is nice.  California Judge Peter J. McBrien is finally punished, but they might as well have held a party for him.  A “rebuke” is hardly a punishment.  Fire his butt.  Well, there’s always next time….he is still out their on the bench ready to screw with you.  From the Sacramento Bee:

Superior Court Judge Peter McBrien was censured Tuesday by the Commission on Judicial Performance. The commission in particular cited McBrien for halting a divorce trial without telling anyone.

State commission rebukes Sacramento judge McBrien

By Andy Furillo

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 – 8:00 am

California’s judicial disciplinarians pounded a Sacramento jurist just about as hard as they could Tuesday, slapping him with an order of public censure over his “manifestly unjudicial” handling of a 2006 divorce case.

The worst thing the state Commission on Judicial Performance could have done to Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien would have been to kick him off the bench. Short of that, the public censure is the most severe penalty at the commission’s disposal.

In what figures to be the end of a disciplinary matter that goes back a year and a half, the commission said McBrien acted “suddenly and precipitously,” in a manner “prejudicial to public esteem for the judicial office.”

He was “patently unreasonable” and acted “without proper justification,” the commission found, in a fashion that would “constitute prejudicial misconduct and willful misconduct.”

At times, McBrien’s “self-serving statements and testimony” to the commission during its investigation were “shown to be inaccurate,” the panel found, which reflected his “arrogant indifference toward these proceedings.”

“We conclude that a severe public censure is warranted based on the gravity of this misconduct, coupled with Judge McBrien’s pervasive lack of accountability and insight into the impropriety of his conduct,” the commission concluded.

Tuesday’s 34-page ruling resulted from charges filed with the commission over McBrien’s hasty March 9, 2006, termination of the divorce case Carlsson vs. Carlsson.

The judge, who was not available for comment Tuesday, drew the sharpest rebuke from the commission for ending the trial before all the evidence was in. As a result, his ultimate decision in the case was overturned by the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal.

The commission also criticized the judge for improperly threatening to hold the lawyer for one of the litigants, Ulf Carlsson, a former state Department of General Services construction manager, in contempt of court.

McBrien had asked the lawyer, Sharon Huddle, to obtain her client’s Statement of Economic Interests and give it to the court. When she hesitated on grounds it might incriminate Carlsson, he raised the possibility of the contempt finding.

McBrien overstepped his role as a judge and acted as an investigator “embroiled” in the case, the commission said, when he ordered up transcripts of Carlsson’s trial testimony and sent them to the construction manager’s bosses at DGS. Carlsson had testified about his private financial relationship with a real estate developer who did business with the agency.

Finally, the commission said McBrien repeatedly demeaned Carlsson’s lawyer throughout the litigation.

James A. Murphy, the San Francisco attorney who represented McBrien at the commission proceedings, called the decision of censure “pretty embarrassing for Judge McBrien, to say the least.”

“He obviously is very remorseful,” Murphy said. “He wishes this matter had not transpired the way it did. He would have handled it differently under the circumstances if he was confronted with the case again. At the time, he did what he thought was appropriate under the circumstances.”

Murphy said McBrien, a family law specialist, has handled 40,000 cases in a career that dates back more than 20 years.

Murphy suggested that the crush of cases in family law court and statistics that show that Sacramento County does not have enough judges to handle the number of filings contributed to the judge’s poor decision-making.

The key problem in the case was McBrien’s decision to end the trial – which had exceeded the two-day time frame he set aside for it – without telling anyone, according to the commission’s finding.

Toward the end of the trial, the judge, who was on call to act on emergency protective orders sought by law enforcement, stepped down from the bench to handle such a request while a witness for Carlsson was on the stand. Phone records showed McBrien took about three minutes to handle the request for the order, the commission found.

But he never came back to the bench that day, and his clerk told the lawyers the trial was over.

Carlsson declined to comment Tuesday, but he previously has said that if the commission did not remove McBrien from the bench, he would appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Tuesday’s censure represented the second time the commission has taken action against McBrien.

It admonished him in 2002 for cutting down trees near his house on the American River Parkway.

The commission also found that his testimony in the current case did not square with the statements he made to commission investigators in the 2002 matter.

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