Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Ah, the sweet satisfaction of exoneration. Retired San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Peter Saiers sounded almost smug Thursday upon learning three appellate justices had issued a ruling expressing their belief that he had, in fact, not called their court a “kangaroo court” during a 2005 hearing. “I’m glad they got it right,” Saiers said dryly, with an occasional chuckle, during a break in jury selection for a DUI case in his Stockton courtroom. Saiers, 64, was chastised in a Dec. 27 ruling (.pdf) by Sacramento’s Third District Court of Appeal for telling a prosecutor who refused to dismiss a strike count during a plea hearing, “Oh, that’s right. You can’t offend the kangaroos up there in kangaroo court.” Third District Justices Rick Sims, Arthur Scotland and Harry Hull were offended by the comment � which they felt was aimed at their court � and accused Saiers of violating judicial canons. That could have led to an investigation by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance. On Thursday, however, the same panel let Saiers off the hook, but only because San Joaquin County District Attorney James Willett came to his defense after the initial ruling. In a letter quoted verbatim in Thursday’s opinion, Willett advised the court that Saiers was referring to him and his office’s “strike committee” � not the appellate court � when he made the kangaroo court remark. Willett said Saiers often “has been frustrated” with the strike committee and prosecutors’ reluctance to dismiss strike counts. Saiers, he added, often has referred to the strike committee “as ‘the Star Chamber,’ the ‘Grand Inquisitors’ or the ‘Kangaroo Court.’ “It is typically said with a pointed, but jocular tone,” Willett noted, “and certainly does not offend me or the prosecutors on the strike committee.” Willett also said he was “positive” that Saiers’ reference to the kangaroos “up there” meant the DA’s offices on the second, third and fifth floors of the Stockton courthouse. The judge’s courtroom, he pointed out, is located on the first floor. In Thursday’s ruling (.pdf) on rehearing, Justice Sims said Willett’s letter had been treated as an amicus curiae brief. Copies were sent to opposing counsel in the case, along with a request about whether the court should still chastise Saiers. William Davies, a staff attorney at Sacramento’s Central California Appellate Program who represented the defendant on charges of assaulting a police officer, couldn’t be reached for comment. But Sacramento-based Deputy Attorney General Judy Kaida said her office took no position on the court’s request because it wasn’t germane to the issues. In the end, the appellate court decided to “take District Attorney Willett at his word.” “End of story,” Sims wrote. But in parentheses, he directed readers’ attention to four judicial ethics codes, one of which advises judges against “directing belittling or demeaning language toward an attorney to indicate the judge’s opinion of the attorney’s legal position.” Willett couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday. Saiers � who told The Recorder in December that he was referring to the DA’s strike committee � said on Thursday he was told after the fact that Willett had written a letter to the appellate court. He said he was “glad he did because that’s who I was referring to.” The judge wouldn’t say much about the court’s ruling, only adding after a bit of goading, “They’ll have another decision tomorrow if I comment, so I’m not going to comment.” The ruling is People v. Zackery, 07 C.D.O.S. 1157.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.