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A Judge Is (Finally) Forced to Step Down

A little while ago, I posted about Judge James Brooks. He had engaged in shenanigans that turned a trial into a circus and humiliated Michelle Reinglass, one of the leading plaintiff-side trial lawyers in California. Well Judge Brooks has finally gotten what was coming to him. On April 4, 2008, the California Commission on Judicial Performance issued a “public admonishment” of Brooks. They had threatened to do worse but let Brooks off light because he agreed to resign from the bench and never seek judicial office or assignment again.

According to the Commission, here are some of the improper and racist things Brooks did during his time on the bench, while supposedly serving the taxpaying public:

  1. “In 1996, Judge Brooks received an advisory letter addressing, in part, the judge’s comments reflecting ethnic bias: referring to Hispanic defendants as ‘Pedro’; issuing a bench warrant for an Asian defendant for ‘ten thousand dollars or twenty thousand yen’; and stating to an undocumented Hispanic defendant, ‘[y]ou have more names than the Tijuana telephone book.'”
  2. “In 1999, Judge Brooks received another advisory letter for remarks to a defendant at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing about how the judge would have handled an assault on a member of his own family: ‘I would go down and punch [the defendant’s] lights out,’ and that instead of calling the police, it would be, ‘touch them, you die.'”
  3. “In 2003, Judge Brooks received a private admonishment for conduct including referring to the parties in a case, the operators of a mobile home park, as ‘Nazis’ and analogizing their actions to that of the Nazis during the Holocaust.”
  4. “In 2006, Judge Brooks received a public admonishment for conduct including telling a litigant who claimed to have failed to appear for his deposition due to a heart condition, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen when we put you in jail, Mr. McMahon. Your little ticker might stop, you think?’. Later, after imposing a fine on Ms. McMahon, Judge Brooks stated, ‘I’d mention jail but it might give her a heart attack.'”

This is great news. But what I’m really wondering is: what took the Commission so long to get this bad egg off the bench? Just think of all the people’s lives he ruined while wielding the gavel in the meantime. And what about all the other bad eggs that are still on the bench to this day? It looks like the Commission is willing to tolerate a lot of bad judicial behavior before they’re willing to finally step in and do something about it. The system is clearly broken. What is to be done?

Meanwhile, Ms. Reinglass has the distinct pleasure of now having to re-try an exhausting case from 3 years ago, thanks to Brooks. Let’s hope her new judge is a step up from Brooks.

Here’s a link to the Commission’s Decision and Order Imposing Public Admonishment in the matter concerning Judge James Brooks.


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