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Apparently forgetting the rule that he who represents himself has a fool for a client, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James McBride appeared pro per Tuesday for a hearing in his ongoing divorce proceeding. The judge argued that he should not be held in contempt for allegedly violating a court order. His ex-wife, Elaine Collins, accuses him of violating their financial and child custody agreements. McBride countered that his former spouse kept valuables, such as $20,000 worth of his mother’s silver and also records, artworks and “jewelry of sentimental value.” He also accused her of refusing to answer questions under oath at a deposition in related legal matters. The nearly four-hour hearing before retired Superior Court Judge Roderick Duncan offered an unusual peek into the private life of a superior court judge. The hearing was the latest chapter in a nasty divorce battle between McBride and Collins that has spawned a spate of lawsuits and nearly resulted in the judge facing domestic violence charges, which could have cost him his job. Although they’ve been divorced for about two years, McBride and Collins return regularly to courtrooms to snipe at each other and ask for modifications in their stipulated divorce judgment. On Tuesday both appeared in court but neither would look at the other. Duncan continued the contempt matter but decided other disputes between McBride and Collins, now a law student at Boalt Hall School of Law. In her contempt petition, Collins alleges that McBride violated their child custody agreement on several occasions. Neither Duncan nor McBride liked Collins’ suggestion that the couple’s three children be brought to court to corroborate her allegations. “I’m appalled by the thought of bringing a child in here and asking him to testify that his dad violated a court order,” said Duncan, a former Alameda County family law judge. McBride asked the court to resist calling his children to testify. He questioned “the materiality” of what they would say. “I would ask the court to examine the issues of having the children testify,” he said. “They know what is going on in general and that knowledge will crystallize when they’re brought down here.” Duncan told both parents to refrain from making “disparaging remarks” about the other in front of their children. Duncan also refused to stay the part of the financial settlement that requires McBride to pay $75,000 into a college fund for his children. “I don’t have the money to pay,” the judge pleaded. He said he would have to sell his Marin County house and pay capital gains that will bite into the sale proceeds. McBride was also named a defendant by Collins in a personal injury complaint filed in October 2001 in Sonoma County, alleging he hit her. He cross-complained that she cut and scratched him. McBride asked Tuesday that the case be transferred to San Francisco, since the alleged incidents occurred here. Duncan indicated that he probably had authority to consolidate the legal matters. Additionally, McBride has sued his divorce lawyer for alleged malpractice by exposing him to spousal abuse charges and faulty financial claims. His former attorney, solo Jill Hersh, has cross-complained that McBride still owes her $63,000 in attorneys fees. After being arrested in May 1999 in a domestic violence dispute with Collins — the source of their cross-complaints — McBride completed a year of anger management. He avoided entering a plea by agreeing to the diversion program.

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