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A retired judge was upbraided by the Third District Court of Appeal on Monday for asking defense attorneys to prepare evidentiary rulings to support the jurist’s summary judgment in a case in which a woman accused a county court system of harassment. Ruling in Carnes v. Placer County Superior Court, 05 C.D.O.S. 1140, a three-judge panel criticized Judge Carlos Baker Jr.’s mistakes, though it found that the errors did not mandate reversal absent a showing of prejudice. (The court reversed the decision on other grounds.) “The impropriety of the judge’s action in this case is highlighted by the fact that the judge granted the motion for summary judgment without having made any rulings on the parties’ evidentiary objections, even though the parties requested such rulings at the hearing,” Justice Ronald Robie wrote for the three-judge panel. Acting Presiding Justice Richard Sims and Justice Vance Raye concurred. Robie later noted that when “a judge simply grants the motion, then asks the prevailing party to provide the court with the reasoning that will support that result, confidence in the court’s integrity is seriously and legitimately undermined.” The plaintiff’s attorney, Sacramento solo George Allen, said he was encouraged that the Third District seemed to agree with many of his arguments. “I think the opinion appropriately explained what was wrong about what happened,” Allen said. “It’s a vindication for Linda Carnes that the appeals court said things aren’t supposed to happen this way.” The case began in August 2002 when Carnes sued the Placer County court system, claiming she was harassed and belittled by a lead worker in her department during her probationary period. Carnes, who worked in the accounting department, alleges that she was let go when she complained of the behavior. Baker, a former Corcoran judge, was assigned to the case and heard Placer County’s summary judgment motion in late 2003. He did not make a tentative ruling before the hearing and, according to the opinion, admitted he “sort of scanned” the papers that had been filed, but said he would “read every word before I make any rulings.” He later took the matter under submission. Baker issued a written ruling two weeks later and asked the defense to prepare the order and include “all findings necessary” to support it. Placer County prepared a 14-page proposed order that included rulings on both parties’ evidentiary objections. On appeal, Carnes argued it was improper for the judge to sign an order “prepared by the attorney defending the Superior Court in the lawsuit against that court.” She added that the judge gave no explanation for his ruling. Despite their disapproval of Baker’s behavior, the justices said it wasn’t sufficiently egregious to cause them to reverse him on those grounds. They did send the case back, however, for a hearing on Carnes’ claims that she was harassed because of her disabilities and that the harassment created a hostile work environment. Defense attorney Nancy Sheehan of Sacramento’s Porter, Scott, Weiberg & Delehant could not be reached for comment.

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