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Ten days after the Commission on Judicial Performance’s 9-to-1 decision removing San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Michael Platt from the bench, the lone dissenting member issued a statement. Ramona Ripston believes public censure is appropriate for the judge, rather than the commission’s most severe punishment. Platt was removed Aug. 5 after he was found to have committed misconduct on four counts of ticket fixing and three counts of attempting to influence other judges. Platt’s attorney, Albert Ellis of Hakeem, Ellis & Marengo in Stockton, said last week the judge intends to file a petition for review with the state Supreme Court. In her dissent, Ripston said Platt’s actions came “out of a desire to help others,” not for personal gain. “Judge Platt’s case cannot properly be evaluated without considering his motivations, his personal history, his record as a judge, the likelihood that he will conform his conduct to judicial norms in the future and the relationship of these factors to the acts he committed,” Ripston wrote. Ripston also disagreed with the commission’s conclusion that Platt’s “rescuer” mentality rendered him unable to steer clear of ethical violations in the future. According to Ripston, the commission decided that Platt’s combat experience in Vietnam and a serious heart attack had given him “proclivities” to help others that he could not ignore. “It was this type of do-gooder conduct that persuaded my colleagues that Judge Platt … was so driven by his humanitarian ‘proclivities’ that he could not be trusted to comply with the rules of judicial ethics in the future, even if public censure, the second most severe form of discipline … were imposed on him,” Ripston wrote. Ripston did not argue against the majority’s conclusion that the judge went out of his way to help others. Instead, she reached a different conclusion about what that meant, concluding that he “could be rehabilitated.” Ripston concluded by scolding the majority for releasing its decision before she could circulate her dissent. “I understand that the filing of the decision without awaiting my dissent was an inadvertent error and not a deliberate act,” she wrote. But because of this “misunderstanding,” she wrote in her dissent, “the opportunity for those who join a majority decision to read and consider the formal dissenting opinion before making a final decision … did not occur.” Ripston, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California and the wife of Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, was appointed to the commission in 1998 by then-Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.

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