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SAN JOSE — When Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser begins his hearing in front of the Commission on Judicial Performance Monday, it will be in a much different setting than his criminal trial. Instead of facing a gauntlet of cameras and bystanders at the county’s main courthouse, Danser will arrive at the Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose with a new lawyer by his side. Instead of facing 12 jurors, he will sit across from three men in his chosen profession. “It’s a whole new ball game and we plan a vigorous defense,” said Danser’s attorney, James Murphy of San Francisco’s Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney. A judicial ethics specialist, Murphy is taking over for Danser’s criminal lawyer, San Jose’s Kenneth Robinson. “We will dispute that he did this for his own gain,” he said. But the criminal trial will loom over the proceedings. Danser is scheduled to be sentenced in the middle of the three-week process, and his ethics defense is expected to bear remarkable similarities to his unsuccessful criminal defense. Just as Robinson did, Murphy plans to argue that what Danser did was normal in Santa Clara County. “Traffic tickets were handled and dismissed every day without any real procedures,” he said. “Even if what Danser did was inappropriate, it was not unusual. Our position is that this was done every day in Santa Clara, and there were no procedures in place that would prevent Danser from doing what he did.” Danser was convicted this spring of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges for fixing 20 traffic tickets and transferring two drunken driving cases to his court. Prosecutors have said that Danser was trying to impress professional athletes and help friends. The CJP’s chief counsel and director, Victoria Henley, said the case against Danser will proceed much like a civil trial. The special masters who will hear the case include Third District Court of Appeal Justice Harry Hull from Sacramento, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Terrance Duncan, andSanta Cruz County Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly — a colleague of the judge who presided over Danser’s criminal trial, William Kelsay. Danser faces any number of possible consequences, ranging from private or public admonishment up to removal from the bench. CJP attorneys Bradford Battson and Jack Coyle will prosecute the case. Attorneys will not need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, Henley said. Instead, they must show that there is “clear and convincing” evidence of ethical violations. While the hearing is expected to be less publicized than the criminal trial, Henley predicted “the number of media will still outnumber the other people at the hearing.” One question is why Danser is choosing to fight CJP charges when a criminal conviction results in automatic removal from the bench. But Danser will not be removed until his appeals are exhausted, which could take years. And if the convictions were to be overturned, he would be eligible to return to the bench — with back pay. The trial is a rare proceeding against a judge. The CJP, which opened in 1960, once vetted charges against judges in private. That changed in 1994 after years of complaints that the public should be allowed to witness the hearings. The CJP receives more than 1,000 complaints against judges a year, most from people unhappy with a ruling, according to the organization. But the CJP pursues fewer than 10 cases a year. In 2003, only three cases were filed against judges. “Most people we hear from are dissatisfied with a judge . . . but the number of cases that involve actual misconduct are far fewer,” Henley said. Some attorneys said Danser would have a tough time during the three-week proceedings because he admitted to numerous ethical violations during his criminal trial. “[The CJP case] probably should be easier because the standard of proof is lower,” said one attorney familiar with the case who asked not to be named. “The acts alone are easier to prove . . . he admitted doing it.” CJP attorney Battson, who investigated the case, declined to comment on possible evidence against Danser. The hearing begins Monday and is expected to last three weeks. Danser is scheduled to be sentenced July 26.

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