The San Diego judge under fire for filming a TV show audition without the knowledge of litigants in her courtroom last week denied that she violated judicial canons.
In a 71-page response filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance, San Diego County Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido also responded to charges that she failed to promote public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. She denied that dozens of remarks she made on-camera and off were improper, saying she used comedy in her courtroom to seize on "teachable moments" with defendants and people in the gallery.
"Due to the desire to effect lasting change in the lives of the participants, I have found that using humor helps the participants feel more comfortable," Salcido wrote. "From my experience, the participants internalize my messages and are more likely to make lasting change when they are comfortable in the courtroom."
The commission charged Salcido in September with willful misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice for filming an hour-long TV audition for a "Judge Judy" type of program, and making inappropriate remarks at that hearing and others.
Salcido denied the allegation that she arranged particular litigants for the filming, and said she hadn't complied with court rules for televised court hearings because the film wasn't for public broadcast. She said she has expressed remorse for some off-color comments made from the bench. But she also sought to justify others. For example, she:
• Admitted that when she took a guilty plea from one defendant and elicited that he was from St. Louis, she told him "I like the accent, it's working for me." She defended the comment as an attempt to rebuild "the relationship between the participant and the court."
• Stood by her use of the phrase "booty call" in one June 2009 matter. She explained that she was "questioning whether the authorities would tell me that booty calls are exempt from domestic violence statutes, I was not affirmatively stating that the authorities so held."
• Defended herself for saying to another defendant, who told the judge she was trying to get a job, "And this is a restaurant to be a waitress where you actually get to wear clothes?" (During the same hearing, she called the defendant out for wearing "hoochie shoes.") Salcido said that she was just concerned that the defendant comply with the terms of her probation.
• Explained a Feb. 22 incident in which she bantered with the courtroom audience about Tiger Woods, saying "I'm sure he's nice. Ask all the hookers in the nation, he's very nice to them." Salcido said she occasionally discusses "current events or other random topics between cases. I believe that this type of interaction increases confidence in the judiciary as it illustrates that the judiciary is part of the community."
Salcido's attorney is Heather Rosing, a shareholder in the San Diego office of Klinedinst.