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Former Sonoma County, Calif., Judge Patricia Gray has sued Lloyd’s of London, claiming it has breached its contract by limiting her choice of counsel and defense strategy in charges filed against her by the state Commission on Judicial Performance. Gray is charged with willful misconduct for circulating campaign literature in 2000 attacking her opponent for representing a “cop killer.” Lloyd’s, the company with which the Administrative Office of the Courts contracted to provide discipline insurance to nearly 2,000 judges and subordinate judicial officers in California, assigned sole practitioner Peter Gubbins, a former CJP staff attorney, to Gray’s case. But when Gubbins came back with the CJP’s proposal that she agree to a public admonishment, she moved for more “experienced trial counsel,” according to her suit. In particular, the suit says that Gray may want to challenge the CJP’s jurisdiction over election-related statements in federal court on First Amendment and other grounds. The insurance company didn’t bite, arguing that the policy that it issued covers commission proceedings only. “The main problem is Lloyd’s wants to tell the attorneys what they can do, where they can go,” said Douglas Provencher, a Santa Rosa, Calif., attorney and personal friend of Gray, who filed the suit Monday on her behalf. The breach of contract suit, filed in San Francisco, says the insurance policy provides $1 million in coverage for expenses “incurred in the defense of any claim first made to the California Commission on Judicial Performance.” The suit argues that should include legal battles that stem from the original complaint but land in other courts. Gray’s case represents one of the first in which the CJP has charged a judge with political campaign violations. Gray was defeated last March by Elliot Daum, then a deputy public defender in Sonoma. During the campaign, according to charges brought by the commission in December, Gray circulated a last-minute mailer describing one of Daum’s clients and emblazoned with the phrase “cop killer.” A second mailer said that Daum assisted a child molester. “Eliot Daum cares about the rights of violent criminals,” it said. “Patricia Gray cares about the rights of crime victims.” According to the commission, the mailers may have violated ethics requirements that judges uphold the integrity of the judiciary, avoid impropriety in all activities, abstain from making comments that could interfere with a fair proceeding, and refrain from inappropriate political activity. The commission has the power to permanently bar Gray from the state bench. After Gray complained about her first lawyer, Lloyd’s assigned another, San Francisco attorney William Chapman. Gray’s suit says she objects to Chapman because he sits on a Judicial Council committee, creating a potential conflict of interest. Chapman, of San Francisco-based Chapman, Popik & White, declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile, Provencher said the insurance company’s insistence on dictating strategy and tactics is inappropriate, especially because no monetary damages are at stake. “The damage is the judge’s reputation,” said Provencher.

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