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SACRAMENTO � The Commission on Judicial Performance has initiated formal proceedings against a Sonoma County judge it says tried to use her position and that of her husband, a justice on the Sixth District Court of Appeal, to avoid arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in June. Judge Elaine Rushing ultimately pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of driving with a blood alcohol level of .20, more than twice the legal limit, on the night of June 21. The California Highway Patrol arrested Rushing after she drove into a ditch on the side of a Santa Rosa road and damaged a stone wall. At the time, authorities made no public claims that Rushing tried to use her position as a judge to avoid arrest or seek preferential treatment. Rushing was cited and released instead of being booked into county jail, a practice CHP officials said is not unusual. Rushing was sentenced to serve 10 days in a work-alternative program, have a three-month restriction placed on her driver’s license and pay a fine of $1,800. She apologized in an open letter to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and continues to suffer embarrassment, according to a statement issued by her attorney, James Murphy of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney in San Francisco. The commission’s complaint accuses Rushing of telling one good Samaritan who stopped by her stranded car on June 21 “to leave” and not call anyone and another, falsely, that she was with her husband. Rushing then allegedly told a firefighter at the scene that she wasn’t driving but that an unspecified man who was had taken the car keys and fled. Rushing allegedly told the CHP that she had been sitting in the back seat, even though her Porsche sports car had no back seat. The complaint also alleges that Rushing showed her judicial identification to a firefighter and “repeatedly” told CHP officers that she was a judge and asked them to call her husband, whom she identified as an appellate court justice. After Rushing was taken into custody, she allegedly complained to a CHP officer that her handcuffs were too tight. The officer told Rushing that she had to remain in handcuffs per department policy. Then, according to the commission’s complaint, Rushing told the officer that in her courtroom she ignored court policies “for CHP and other officers” and that “he should extend that courtesy” to her. In his statement, Murphy did not address the complaint’s specifics but said Rushing “responded incoherently” to CHP officers on the scene and to “some good Samaritans” who stopped at her stranded car. “Finally, she incorrectly asked the arresting officers to loosen her handcuffs, not recognizing that this would be a violation of their protocol,” Murphy said. Murphy said that Rushing had spent the evening of June 21 consoling a friend whose mother had died. She drank wine and looked at old pictures before she left and ultimately lost control of her car. “This was a one-time, highly unusual circumstance that obviously will never be repeated,” Murphy said. Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Rushing to the bench in 1992. She was the first woman to serve as a superior court judge in Sonoma County. A date for the hearing on allegations against Rushing was not released Tuesday. The Commission on Judicial Performance also on Tuesday admonished Orange County Superior Court Judge John Watson for doing work linked to his private rental properties in his courtroom. Watson had his clerk prepare approximately 40 letters related to his rental-property business and also had his bailiff and clerk accept rental payments, according to the commission’s findings. Watson used his judicial letterhead on a number of occasions but only once did he use his title as judge on rental-property related correspondence, the commission found.

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