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The Commission on Judicial Performance forced Pleasanton Judge D. Ronald Hyde off the bench Tuesday, one month before he had planned to retire. The Alameda County Superior Court judge’s checkered ethical record — including being punished for misconduct five other times — sealed his fate, the unanimous panel ruled. “In 1996 the commission accepted Judge Hyde’s assurances that he was aware of the inappropriateness of his actions and � that they would not be repeated. The record before the commission shows that these assurances were hollow,” wrote Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Rise Jones Pichon, the chairwoman of the commission. Most recently, Hyde was found to have used a court clerk to obtain the DMV records of a driver who cut him off, and he urged a fellow judge to “back me up” on a ruling Hyde had made before being disqualified from a case. Nine of the 11 other commissioners signed onto the decision. Commissioner Betty Wyman abstained. When reached Tuesday afternoon, Hyde would say little about his case. “I’ve been recalled,” the 60-year-old judge said. “I was told not to make comments.” He directed inquiries to his attorney, James Murphy. Murphy, a partner with San Francisco’s Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, said he and his client have not decided whether to petition the California Supreme Court for review. Murphy was traveling in Los Angeles on Tuesday and said he hadn’t had a chance to read the CJP’s decision. The commission’s 35-page decision ends a 20-year judicial career studded with community honors but marred with run-ins with the state’s judicial watchdog. Hyde was appointed to the municipal court bench in 1982 — back when, in his words, the Tri-Valley courthouse was merely a rural “cow court.” Attorneys and community members who testified on the judge’s behalf said Hyde was a “pillar of the community” who volunteered for dozens of local charitable groups. Among other things, Hyde helped start the night court and a diversion program, presided over special court sessions for homeless veterans and hosted hundreds of schoolchildren who visited his courtroom. Murphy and Hyde had argued that misunderstandings about the Pleasanton courthouse’s informal customs and disgruntled court clerks spurred the CJP’s most recent probe. “One of the things that I realized early in my career is that I can make a difference in people’s lives,” Hyde told the commission in August. “My life, if you look at my resume, has been dedicated to my community and being a judge in my community.” Hyde also apologized to the commission for his behavior. But according to the commission, Hyde flouted ethic rules over and over. In October 1992, April 1996, June 1997 and February 1998, Hyde was privately rapped for making inappropriate comments in open court, misusing his post to raise money for charity, calling female staffers by demeaning nicknames and giving special help to litigants he knew. Hyde was publicly disciplined in May 1996 for using court staff to conduct personal business, including applying for a federal judgeship and using DMV records to look up his old classmates. The commission noted in Tuesday’s ruling that the most recent investigation began in 2001 and stemmed from complaints similar to the ones in the past. To make matters worse, while under investigation, Hyde told Alameda County Judge Hugh Walker to back up his bail ruling after Hyde had been disqualified from a case. A panel of judges called that action willful misconduct, and it helped clear the way for him to be removed from office. “Even when the commission’s attention was focused on him, Judge Hyde could not resist repeating an act of misconduct,” the commission said. It also blasted him for lying in legal briefs and for enlisting court staff to help him break ethics rules. “How could the commission meet its mandate � to maintain public confidence in the judicial system if it does not remove Judge Hyde from office when it finds that he has repeated acts of misconduct �?” the panel’s decision later stated. In early June, Hyde announced that he planned to retire, and it appeared that he would be spared the embarrassment of removal. The harshest punishment that a retired judge faces is being barred from sitting on assignment. However, shortly after Hyde left the Pleasanton courthouse, he learned that his new wife would not receive certain survivor benefits unless he remained on the bench until the end of October. Since then, Hyde has been presiding in Oakland. It’s not clear what effect Hyde’s dismissal will have on his wife’s benefits. On Tuesday morning the CJP called Presiding Judge Harry Sheppard to inform him of the decision. Shortly after that, Hyde, who was presiding over misdemeanor arraignments, left the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse. “His difficulties with the commission notwithstanding, [Hyde] was an effective judge and was well liked by the citizens of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore,” Sheppard said. The commission’s decision becomes final in 30 days, said Victoria Henley, director-chief counsel of the judicial watchdog group. If Hyde decides to petition the Supreme Court, he will draw pay until his appeals are exhausted, she said.

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