Attorney-Fees

Taking a Workplace Crush WAAAAAY Too Far

Judge Valeriano Saucedo fell—hard– for his married court clerk—which might explain why he showered her with $26,000 in gifts, including flowers, cash, a family trip to Disneyland and a BMW. He also sent Tovar hundreds of text messages and wrote an anonymous, crude letter that accused Tovar of having a relationship with a bailiff. Saucedo denied sending the letter and claimed that he was only trying to act as a mentor to Tovar, not pressure her into a relationship. When she told him to stop, he threatened to kill himself. California’s Commission on Judicial Performance concluded that Saucedo’s actions were “so completely at odds with the core qualities and role of a judge that no amount of mitigation can redeem the seriousness of the wrongdoing or obviate the need for removal.”

Cultural Bias-and No Bathroom Breaks!

A Texas judge was disciplined for some seriously politically incorrect exchanges with attorneys and a really, really long court session. Judge Carter Tinsley Schildknecht referred to District Attorney Michael Munk as a “New York Jew” in a conversation with Munk’s secretary, and did herself no favors with her later explanation for the comment: “When I tell people why you [Munk] are different and have different thoughts, I explain [it is] because you are from New York and because you are Jewish.”

Schildknecht also offered her presumably unsolicited opinion on an assistant district attorney’s beard, telling him, “You look like a Muslim, and I wouldn’t hire you.” The State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Schildknecht “manifested a religious and/or cultural bias,” and also reprimanded her for holding a court session that lasted from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. without any formal meal or restroom breaks. That last one likely offended just about everyone involved.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice …

Judge Michael Thomas Seiler, who hears the majority of civil commitment proceedings for repeat violent sex offenders in Texas, got in hot water for venting about his admittedly unenviable job during a speech, using a creepy fictional reference and some colorful language. Addressing the Texas Patriots PAC, Seiler referred to the sex offenders in his courtroom as “psychopaths,” and described a specific defendant as a “complete psychopath” and another as a “pedophile rapist.” To make sure the audience was sufficiently freaked out, Seiler brought a visual aid: a photo of the cinematic serial killer character Hannibal Lecter. Seiler was reprimanded for the incident, as well as for several instances in which he threatened to throw defense lawyers out of his courtroom and otherwise displayed behavior that the judicial conduct commission termed “impatient, discourteous and undignified.”

This Is Not a Good Way to Break Up the Tedium

Another judge potentially not thrilled with his assignment is facing charges of inappropriate comments to attorneys and witnesses. New Jersey state Judge Joseph Portelli, who handles child guardianship cases, allegedly made “vulgar, insensitive and insulting” remarks to attorneys in his chambers, including telling a deputy attorney general that “he liked how she ‘shoves it up’ or ‘rams it up’ the law guardian’s ‘ass’ and the law guardian ‘needs that’ or ‘deserves that,’” according to the complaint. Portelli also allegedly told the attorney that he “hated” trying guardianship cases because there were “so boring and long.” Portelli denies making the remarks and has asked that the complaint be dismissed, though he did admit in his answer that “there have been a few instances where he has remarked to other individuals that he finds guardianship hearings tedious.”

Follow Me on Facebook!

When presiding over a prominent criminal trial in Texas, Judge Michelle Slaughter warned jurors not to discuss the case with anyone – in person, by phone or over social media. The judge then apparently decided the rule didn’t apply to her own Facebook feed. In a case involving charges of unlawful restraint and injury to a child, Slaughter kept her Facebook friends updated, with posts including: “After we finished day 1 of the case called the ‘boy in the box’ case, trustees from the jail came in and assembled the actual 6′x8′ ‘box’ inside the courtroom!” She also linked to a news article about the trial. Slaughter was removed from the case and admonished by the state judicial conduct commission. She then appealed the reprimand, arguing that she created and maintained her Facebook page to educate the public about what is happening in the courts. A special court of review ultimately found Slaughter not guilty of ethical violations, concluding that her Facebook comments amounted to an “error of judgment.”