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California’s Commission on Judicial Performance took the unusual step Wednesday of removing from office a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who faced charges of — among other things — adjudicating reality TV troubles arising from a Miss Wet on the Net contest in a strip club. Judge Kevin Ross, 42, had been accused of a range of misconduct, topped with the strip-club judicial performance and work on a reality TV pilot. But it was more Ross’ lack of candor, the commission said, than his actions, that cost him his gavel. “Judge Ross’ manifest and pervasive lack of honesty and accountability throughout these proceedings compel our unanimous conclusion that we must remove him from office,” the commissioners wrote. The decision said Ross had committed four counts of willful misconduct, two instances of prejudicial misconduct and one instance of improper action. Their conclusion was more stringent than what was recommended by three California Supreme Court-appointed special masters, who found that Ross committed only one instance of willful misconduct — the most serious degree of impropriety — four instances of prejudicial misconduct and one instance of improper action. Removal of a sitting judge is the most serious punishment the commission can deliver. Ross is only the fifth judge the commission has removed from office since it was given the power to do so in 1995. In a prepared statement, Ross said Wednesday that that he accepts “complete responsibility for those specific actions that did not exemplify the highest standards of judicial excellence.” He also said he would give himself “an opportunity to thoroughly examine” the commission’s order before “making a decision as to what course of action, if any, should be contemplated.” The charges against Ross were filed in May 2004 in connection with his demeanor in presiding over four unrelated criminal cases between 2001 and 2003. Ross was also charged with making inappropriate comments on pending cases while appearing on a public TV program and with acting as a private arbitrator on a pilot for a reality TV show. But more compelling to commissioners was what they described as “clear and compelling evidence of a pervasive lack of candor and accountability on Judge Ross’ part during the [commission's] proceedings, compelling the conclusion that he is fundamentally unsuited to be a judge.” Commissioners also noted that Ross had received a commission advisory letter in 2001 for “misconduct similar to that involved here.” They added that they were “convinced that there is a strong likelihood that Judge Ross will commit further misconduct if we do not protect the public and the judiciary by removing him.” In particular, the panel — which includes two superior court judges, an appeal court judge, attorneys and public members — found that Ross was less than honest in reporting to commissioners what had happened during incidents under investigation. In one case, commissioners held that Ross “fabricated” stories. In another, “he persists in the false claim that he gave prompt notice to counsel of his ex parte conversation with the defendant” and “admits he made an after-the-fact addition to court minutes he gave to his supervising judge.” Commissioners also cited Ross’ refusal to admit he was acting as an arbitrator for a reality TV show that was ultimately never aired, even though — say commissioners — having a “real-life Judge Ross was the premise of the program and the key to the marketability of the new reality show.” “We are dismayed by Judge Ross’ conduct in and out of the courtroom, culminating in his willingness to be filmed as a judge in a strip club in hopes of being able to market himself off the bench into a more lucrative career,” the commission’s order stated in part. The decision issued by commissioners also noted that Ross committed no wrongdoing in leaving court without approval to participate in community outreach activities. Ross, who was elected to the Inglewood Municipal Court in 1998 at the age of 35, is a former deputy district attorney, talk show host and parks and recreation commissioner. He is described as a community leader and role model by supporters, commissioners noted. “He is gifted and dedicated to important judicial outreach activities. He brought to the bench excellent credentials,” noted commissioners. “Those factors make our task all the more difficult. � However, they do not and cannot mitigate the totality of the wrongdoing or the conclusion that removal from office is required.”

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