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Two superior court judges, both accused of driving under the influence and then trying to leverage their positions as judges to get special treatment, were censured by the state Commission on Judicial Performance Thursday. Sonoma County Judge Elaine Rushing and Riverside County Judge Bernard Schwartz each avoided the possibility of a stiffer consequence � removal from the bench � by stipulating to the disciplinary charges against them. Rushing was driving under the influence last June when she hit a residential wall in Santa Rosa and left the scene without telling the property owners, according to the decision in her case. About two miles down the road, she drove her car into a ditch. When emergency personnel and highway patrol officers reached the scene, Rushing denied she had been the driver, making up a story about a man and a woman who had been with her but had left on foot. She also repeatedly told an officer that she was a superior court judge, and kept asking him to call her husband who, she informed him, was an appellate court justice. Rushing � who currently presides over civil matters � told the officer he should not be arresting her because she was a judge, according to the decision. Rushing’s overall conduct here was “seriously at odds” with canons of ethics, as well as expected judicial behavior, the decision said, which was approved by seven commission members. But the commission also noted that Rushing had no prior discipline on her record and that “numerous people” had submitted letters supporting her. They included criminal defense attorney Cristina Arguedas and Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Eileen Moore. Two other commission members had voted against the settlement, based on a belief that there should be a hearing to develop a full factual record before reaching any decision, commission Chairperson Marshall Grossman wrote. Rushing’s attorney, James Murphy, who works in the San Francisco office of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney, said the judge doesn’t recall the events that occurred. “We entered into the stipulation,” he said, “because Judge Rushing wanted to resolve this matter. It has been very distracting to her.” Rushing pleaded no contest last year to driving under the influence. Schwartz, who has been on the bench in Riverside County since 2003, was pulled over by a Pismo Beach cop in July 2005 for veering out of his traffic lane, according to Schwartz’s stipulationwith the commission. When the officer asked him to take a test to screen for alcohol, Schwartz suggested the officer run his license. When the officer asked Schwartz if he was trying to say he was a police officer, he responded, “No, I’m a judge,” the stipulation said. Shortly after, the conversations were tape recorded, the stipulation said. On one of the multiple occasions when Schwartz suggested the officers just take him to his hotel and was refused, he said, “But, I’m all of a mile away from the hotel. � I know you guys are doing your job, but this is not good for me. I’m running for election next year and this is not a good time.” As with Rushing, the commission decided that Schwartz had committed prejudicial, rather than willful, misconduct, because he was not acting in a judicial capacity when he attempted to get preferential treatment. He also had no prior discipline, Grossman wrote in the undisputed decision. Judge Schwartz and his attorney, Edward George Jr., could not be reached for comment by press time.

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