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The Commission on Judicial Performance has admonished a Napa County judge for making misleading statements in a family law case. But James Murphy, who represents Superior Court Judge Francisca Tisher, said the punishment does not fit the crime because his client’s hands were tied when she handled the case. The CJP’s punishment is “harsh and not warranted under the factual circumstances Judge Tisher was presented with,” said Murphy, of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney. The commission, which voted 8-0 in favor of punishment, felt otherwise. It ruled that Tisher “repeatedly” made misleading statements about the timing of an order written by one of her colleagues that gave another state jurisdiction in the case. However you slice it, Tisher’s case presents a complicated set of facts. At issue in her courtroom was a custody dispute, Maroney v. Ruiz, involving a man and wife who got divorced in Texas. The husband moved to New Jersey, the wife to Napa, according to the CJP. The matter had previously been handled by Napa County Superior Court Commissioner Kelly Boyd, who worked with a New Jersey judge to determine who had jurisdiction in the couple’s dispute over their teenage sons. Boyd agreed to prepare an order giving up jurisdiction, which she began to prepare Sept. 30, 2002. Apparently, though, she did not finish it, send it to New Jersey, or inform the parents about the order. Then the father took one of his sons from California and brought him to New Jersey. According to the CJP, on Oct. 3, 2002, Boyd asked Tisher for advice on the unfinished order, telling her in an e-mail: “I forgot to do it and now someone came and picked up the kid and it sounds like it is going to heat up but I would like to have it heat up in NJ.” The next day, Tisher gave Boyd advice on the order, which the commissioner then signed. Although filed on Oct. 4, the order was file-stamped Sept. 30. That same day, Tisher presided over an ex parte motion in the case. She told the parties that she couldn’t do anything because of the Sept. 30-dated order giving jurisdiction to New Jersey. “At the time that she presided at the Oct. 4 hearing, Judge Tisher knew that the order declining jurisdiction had been signed and filed earlier that same morning, not on Sept. 30,” according to the CJP. Although the CJP said Tisher’s behavior in court violated judicial ethics, Murphy said there wasn’t anything else she could do. “Judge Tisher had no jurisdiction to act, plain and simple,” Murphy said. “Regardless of when she knew the order had been signed, the order deprived her of jurisdiction. � Where is the misrepresentation?” Murphy said Tisher knew nothing about the case when Boyd asked for advice. Because date stamps are created by clerks and computers, even Boyd might not have known that the order was pre-dated when sent to New Jersey and put into the Napa case file, Murphy said. Neither Murphy nor the CJP would comment on whether there is an investigation into Boyd’s actions in the case. Boyd could not be reached for comment. Napa Presiding Judge W. Scott Snowden said, “Every judge of this court has complete confidence in Judge Tisher’s ethics, her integrity and her honesty.” Napa County has six judges and two commissioners. Tisher was appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995.

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