08:59, April 25 192 0 abajournal.com

2017-04-25 08:59:04

 

Judge ‘tone deaf’ to the impact of comments from the bench, panel concludes

A California judge had a sincere desire to connect with people in his courtroom, but he was “tone deaf” to how his comments could be offensive to some people, according to a report by a three-judge ethics panel.

The panel concluded Judge Gary Kreep violated ethics rules when he made the remarks about appearance and ethnicity to lawyers and litigants, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

The April 20 report (PDF) will be forwarded to the California Commission on Judicial Performance for a decision on whether to adopt the findings and impose discipline.

Kreep represented “birthers” challenging President Barack Obama’s birth certificate before winning the judicial election in 2012. He initially alleged the complaints against him were leveled because of his conservative background, but he dropped the argument during the ethics hearing.

Among the alleged inappropriate remarks detailed in the report:

—Kreep indicated that loved the accent of a deputy public defender. The lawyer informed Kreep that she is Mexican, then clarified that she is “a U.S. citizen and proud of it.” Kreep replied, “I wasn’t planning on having you deported.” Kreep said he was trying to get a laugh with the deportation comment, but he later acknowledged it was inappropriate and apologized to the lawyer.

—Kreep commented on the attractiveness of female lawyers who appeared before him with comments such as, “We’ve got all sorts of very attractive young PDs around here.” He referred to one deputy public defender as “the pretty brown one” and told someone in his courtroom, “She’s a pretty girl, you know you could smile.”

—Kreep developed nicknames for some people appearing before him. He referred to one law student intern with the public defender’s office as a “bun head” (because she wore a bun), another as “Ms. Dimples,” and yet another – who was a 6-foot-7 man – as “Shorty.” He also referred to a deputy city attorney as “Star Parker,” and said he did so because she was a beautiful African-American woman who resembled the syndicated columnist. He later stopped using nicknames when counseled not to do so.

—Kreep used Spanish when speaking to litigants with Spanish surnames, even if they spoke English, and addressed some defendants as senor, senora or senorita.

—Kreep referred to “Chinese prostitutes” then turned to a deputy city attorney and said “No offense to Chinese people.” He later acknowledged he was wrong to do so.

The panel concluded Kreep “was tone deaf to how attorneys might react to the casual way he ran his courtroom or the comments he made about their appearance and ethnicity. Although he worked diligently on his assigned cases, participated in judicial education opportunities, and volunteered for community outreach, he nevertheless delegated, delayed or ignored some of his most pressing ethical responsibilities. He had a sincere desire to connect with people and to help them in the courtroom, but his approach was improper for a judicial officer.”

The panel said that deputy public defenders who appeared before Kreep did not view his comments as offensive, while deputy city attorneys considered his courtroom upsetting, offensive and “toxic.”

The panel also said Kreep responded improperly when he learned city attorneys had boycotted his courtroom and he was being sent to traffic court. Kreep had told city attorneys, “If they are coming for me, they are likely coming for you.”

The panel also noted that Kreep had acknowledging he sometimes used crude language in court. “The words ‘butt’ and ‘crap’ may be relatively tame examples of crude language, particularly when compared to the vulgar language rampant in culture, social media, and entertainment,” the panel said. “But a higher standard of conduct is required in our courtrooms, and for good reason”