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The Commission on Judicial Performance ordered San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Michael Platt removed from the bench Monday for fixing traffic tickets and trying to influence cases before other judges. Platt was found to have committed misconduct on four counts of ticket fixing, and three counts of attempting to influence other judges. In one instance, Platt instructed a clerk to dismiss a speeding ticket for the niece of a personal friend who had loaned him $3,500, a debt later discharged as part of Platt’s bankruptcy proceedings. In two other cases, Platt dismissed speeding tickets for an unidentified professional baseball player and his wife, who were described as personal friends. Platt also dismissed without a hearing a speeding ticket given to the son of one of his occasional bailiffs after telephoning the CHP officer who’d written the citation. The other four charges involved Platt’s interference in matters being handled by other judges, including an instance where he stood in another judge’s courtroom during a hearing involving a former client’s family. Platt’s attorney, Albert Ellis of Hakeem, Ellis & Marengo in Stockton, said the judge will file a petition for review with the state Supreme Court. The removal of a judge from the bench in California is rare. If the decision is upheld by the high court, it will be only the 16th time a judge has been removed in California since 1960, according to the CJP Web site. In its decision, the judicial watchdog agency said Platt went out of his way to fix tickets for friends, even after being warned. “First, after having been privately admonished, Judge Platt dismissed three traffic tickets, and attempted to dismiss a fourth,” the CJP’s report stated. “Furthermore, none of the tickets would have come before him in the ordinary course of judicial business.” The commissioners said they didn’t buy Platt’s argument that he didn’t realize dismissing traffic tickets for friends and acquaintances was unethical. “It is inconceivable that Judge Platt did not know that ticket fixing is wrong,” the CJP concluded. “[His] insensitivity to ethical restraints is further reflected in his two attempts to influence other judicial officers on behalf of a friend or an acquaintance.” Platt, who was appointed to the San Joaquin County Superior Court in 1994, received a private admonishment in 1997 for soliciting campaign contributions from attorneys and court staff. The commission adopted the findings of a panel of special masters who found “clear and convincing” evidence of Platt’s ticket fixing, which it called “a quintessential bad act of a judge. It is an abuse of power that citizens unquestionably understand and are suspicious about.” The commission voted 9 to 1 to remove Platt from the bench. Commission member Ramona Ripston voted in favor of all the findings and conclusions, but voted for a public censure instead of removal.

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