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Alameda County Judge D. Ronald Hyde will retire in June, exiting the bench in the midst of a probe into whether he violated state ethics rules. The judge’s decision — which his lawyer insists is not tied to the inquiry by the Commission on Judicial Performance — was revealed just a week after a misconduct hearing into his actions on the Pleasanton bench. A three-judge panel is now weighing testimony from witnesses who say the 59-year-old judge used his post to give friends and acquaintances special treatment, and that he broke other rules as well. The commission’s decision — which it still plans to announce — could take months. Hyde, who has been on the bench for 20 years, says he has ties to many local residents through his community work and that the commission has misinterpreted those relationships and his courthouse’s relaxed procedures as misconduct. On Tuesday, Hyde’s attorney said the judge’s retirement plans were completely separate from the ethics probe. “He recently remarried, and he wants to spend time with his new bride,” said James Murphy of San Francisco’s Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney. Hyde got married in the fall, the lawyer said. “It was his plan to retire on his 60th birthday,” Murphy added. About a week before the CJP began misconduct hearings in San Francisco, Hyde apparently set a retirement date. On March 17, Hyde told Presiding Judge Harry Sheppard that he planned to retire on June 2, the PJ confirmed. Hyde’s birthday is June 3, which is the day when the jurist’s retirement benefits reach their maximum value under the “tier one” judicial retirement plan. In that plan, a judge can retire at age 60 with full benefits after serving for 20 years, Sheppard said. Many Alameda County judges in the “tier one” plan decide to keep handling cases after they turn 60, Sheppard said, adding that Hyde’s disclosure of his retirement plans took him by surprise. But Hyde’s exit from the bench does not end his troubles with the CJP. The commission still has the power to bar Hyde from sitting on assignment after retirement, Murphy said. Even though the judge had earlier told the CJP that he was planning to retire eventually, the CJP’s attorneys — who initially sought to remove Hyde from the bench — wanted the judge to face some type of punishment if he retired. “We did not have an opportunity to resolve the matter with the commission with just Judge Hyde retiring,” Murphy said. Murphy would not say what the proposed discipline was. Instead of accepting the CJP’s conditions, Hyde decided to fight the allegation to protect his “good name,” Murphy said. Victoria Henley, the director and chief counsel for the commission, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Hyde’s retirement benefits would have remained intact regardless of the outcome of the misconduct probe. A judge is only in danger of losing retirement benefits if found guilty of certain types of criminal conduct, Henley has said in a past interview. The pending state investigation is the third time the judge has been scrutinized by the CJP, which publicly admonished Hyde in 1996 and privately rapped him in 1997 for similar allegations. Hyde is on vacation until April 18 and his caseload is being handled by the other Pleasanton judges, Sheppard said. Once Hyde retires, Sheppard said it’s likely he will assign a judge to that courthouse to help out. Murphy said he was unsure of any plans Hyde may have to work after he retires. Murphy added that it’s unlikely that the commission probe will tarnish Hyde’s chances to find work. “The people who know him best in Pleasanton will recognize what he has done for that community,” he said.

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