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Patrick Couwenberg — the Los Angeles Superior Court judge who lied about his educational and military background in applying for the bench and later blamed a mental condition — was removed from office Wednesday by the Commission on Judicial Performance. The commission said it found clear and convincing evidence that Couwenberg lied in his application to then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, continued to lie once he became a judge, and then lied to the commission when it launched an investigation. In the unanimous decision, the commission noted that the purpose of a judicial disciplinary proceeding is not to punish but rather to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity of the judicial system. “The commission concludes that these purposes require the removal of Judge Couwenberg form the bench,” wrote Michael Kahn, chair of the commission and a partner at Folger, Levin & Kahn. The commission instituted formal proceedings against Couwenberg last July based on allegations that he lied to the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission. His attorneys acknowledged he misstated his background, but they urged the commission not to remove Couwenberg — who they said had earned a reputation as a fine trial judge while on the bench — but rather to impose a lesser discipline. The commission found Couwenberg lied about being a Vietnam veteran, receiving a Purple Heart, and earning a master’s degree. It also said Couwenberg told the same lies to the judge who swore him in and to lawyers appearing before him. In one instance, he told attorneys that he had “had shrapnel in his groin received in military combat.” The judge’s lawyers and doctors said he suffers from “pseudologia fantastica,” or pathological lying, a condition tied to his experience growing up in a concentration camp in Indonesia at the end of World War II. The commission didn’t buy it. In particular, Kahn’s decision states, pseudologia fantastica was explained in testimony as an attempt to explain why a person lies in a way that does not directly promote his or her self-interests. “The reasons for Judge Couwenberg’s misrepresentations, however, are self-evident,” the commission concluded. “As Judge Couwenberg’s misrepresentations were clearly calculated to advance his self-interests, a theory aimed at explaining why a person lies in a way that does not obviously advance the person’s self-interests has no application.”

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