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Judge Discipline in the News

From the Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian was publicly admonished Thursday for mistreating an attorney and abusing his judicial authority. Sohigian, 69, was disciplined for treating an attorney in a "belittling, rude and sarcastic manner" in 2006, when he ordered the attorney — who did not have a document with him — to go across the street to the law library, research an issue and return in 20 minutes. After the attorney complied, Sohigian said, "I told you to go across the street to the law library. If you didn't do that, if you had someone call you or you called somebody and had someone read something to you, that's obviously not what I ordered or suggested at all."

Judge Sohigian blamed medication for a "spine-related health condition." He says he has already changed his case management style. We've seen some rulings from his department that suggest that there are few, if any, employment class action cases he would consider eligible for certification. According to a 2003 survey, Judge Sohigian was the most frequently challenged judge in Los Angeles County. The least popular judges from January 2001 to June 2003 were, in order, with total peremptory challenges in parentheses:

Ronald Sohigian (358)
Mary Ann Murphy (148)
Alan Buckner (100)
David Workman (92)
Malcolm Mackey (92)
Richard Hubbell (70)
Alexander Williams III (67)
David Yaffe (66)
Ernest Hiroshige (61)
Jeffrey Wiatt (60)
Irving Feffer (59)
David Schacter (57)
Aurelio Munoz (56)
Dzintra Janavs (54)
Fumiko Wasserman (50)

Two of these judges (Buckner and Wiatt) have since committed suicide. A third (Janavs) was voted off the bench, but promptly re-appointed by the governor.

In Santa Cruz County, the talk this week is of the removal from the bench of [former] Superior Court Judge Jose Velasquez. The California Commission on Judicial Performance determined that Velasquez committed 46 acts of misconduct between January 2004 and May 2005.

"The misconduct is wide ranging in both nature and impact. It was directed toward criminal defendants, attorneys, and even a person who appeared in court as a favor for a friend who was having difficulty making his court appearance," Chairman Frederick Horn, an Orange County Superior Court judge, wrote for the unanimous commission.

While the disciplined judges are undoubtedly unhappy about the Commission's actions, it could be worse for them. They could have been in China. Last week, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwestern China, a judge charged with corruption died in his cell from "adult sudden death syndrome." Li Chaoyang, 38, had been uncooperative while in detention, but had not been maltreated, officials claimed. Cuts on his face and other injuries had been caused by a fall during an escape attempt. "Li Chaoyang's sudden death conforms with adult sudden death syndrome," said a lead official, citing a forensic report.


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