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SACRAMENTO � Citing a “plethora of misconduct,” the Commission on Judicial Performance on Wednesday booted Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jose Velasquez from the bench. Velasquez committed 46 acts of misconduct between January 2004 and May 2005, ranging from lengthening jail sentences of defendants who questioned his rulings, to forcing unrepresented defendants to choose jail time or diversion programs without telling them they could plead not guilty, the commission found. “The misconduct is wide ranging in both nature and impact. It was directed toward criminal defendants, attorneys, and even a person who appeared in court as a favor for a friend who was having difficulty making his court appearance,” Chairman Frederick Horn, an Orange County Superior Court judge, wrote ( .pdf) for the unanimous commission. Velasquez took up his usual 8:15 a.m. calendar Wednesday but stepped down when the commission’s ruling was released. Court officials said his cases were immediately reassigned to other judges but referred all other questions to the CJP. Velasquez’s attorney, James Murphy of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney in San Francisco, was out of the office and unavailable for comment Wednesday. But after the commission launched formal proceedings against Velasquez last year, Murphy said the courtroom transcripts cited by investigators as evidence of wrongdoing didn’t reflect the true “flavor” of the judge’s words or actions. Murphy said Velasquez’s seemingly blunt talk was often directed at his courtroom’s non-English speakers, many of whom weren’t familiar with the legal system. Velasquez was simply trying to convey plainly “that this is serious, this is significant, that if you don’t follow through, you’re going to face some serious consequences,” Murphy said in an April 2006 interview. The commission found in eight cases that Velasquez improperly sent defendants to jail without hearings after deciding they had “willfully” violated their probation terms � even when they weren’t appearing in court on such charges.
The commission found in eight cases that Velasquez improperly sent defendants to jail without hearings after deciding they had ‘willfully’ violated their probation terms � even when they weren’t appearing in court on such charges.

In one December 2004 case, a man on probation for drunken driving appeared before Velasquez without a lawyer to ask for a new surrender date to serve his original 20-day jail sentence. The judge, apparently irritated that the man had not already done his time, denied his request. “You may forget to go back,” Velasquez said. “So I’m just going to remand you to the custody of the sheriffs effective immediately for your willful failure to comply. It was originally 20 days. There’s going to be a five-day penalty for your failure to comply, so it’s going to be 25.” Velasquez told the special masters that, by immediately sending probationers to jail without a hearing, he was doing what he had seen other Monterey County judges do in his days as a practicing attorney. The masters said they found that testimony “unconvincing.” In another case, Velasquez ordered a defendant to jail for 20 days after determining that he hadn’t attended enough Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to comply with a previous sentence. When the defendant began protesting, through an interpreter, that he had attended the classes, Velasquez increased his jail sentence to 30 days and threatened more. “If you’d like to take more of the court’s time, you’ll be at 60,” Velasquez said, according to a transcript. When the defendant interjected, the judge bumped the sentence again to 75 days in jail. The commission censured Velasquez in 1997 for similar behavior. “Judge Velasquez urges the commission to impose a second censure rather than removal,” Horn wrote. “Another censure would be woefully inadequate to address the egregious and persistent pattern of misconduct before us.”

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