A former Kern County court commissioner has been barred from holding any future judicial office after a state disciplinary agency censured him for Facebook messages criticizing Muslims, Democrats, Native Americans, immigrants and same-sex marriage, among other topics and groups.
Retired Commissioner Joseph Gianquinto accepted a public censure, the worst punishment that can be meted out by the Commission on Judicial Performance short of removal from office. As part of an agreement with the agency, Gianquinto said he would never again run for judge, seek a judicial appointment or accept work as a subordinate judicial officer or judge pro tem.
Gianquinto’s attorney, Katy Cummings of Miller Law Associates, said she was not authorized to comment on the case other than to say, “The commissioner is looking forward to putting the matter behind him.”
Gianquinto retired in March. The state bar’s website lists Gianquinto’s status as inactive.
Gianquinto, named a commissioner by the Kern County bench in 2007, posted inflammatory memes between 2016 and 2017 on his Facebook account, which identified the author as “Jj Gianquinto.” The page said he worked for Kern County but did not mention he was a court commissioner.
Among his posts:
- “As I drove to the gym this morning, my route goes past several low income housing units recently built, and some apartment buildings that are also low income. I did not see a single light on at 6:00. That is when people going to work arise.”
- Over a meme that reads, “We Shouldn’t Reward Illegal Immigrants With Driver’s Licenses,” Gianquinto wrote “DAMN STRAIGHT # No Amnesty.” One of Gianquinto’s duties as commissioner was handling traffic cases.
- Another post shows a photo of two wedding rings with the caption, “One man, one woman … Say ‘I do’ to supporting traditional marriage.” Gianquinto added: “Amen … Absolutely I do! Anyone who may disagree is free to take it up with God. #OneManOneWoman One Nation Under God.”
- Various posts express contempt for former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “LIBERALS ARE AMERICA’S CANCER. Any doubt in your mind?”
After the court’s then-presiding judge, Charles Brehmer, confronted Gianquinto with the posts in May 2017, the commissioner said he deleted the posts in question and made his Facebook account private, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance. Gianquinto also said he reported what he had done to the commission.
In June 2017, Brehmer issued a private reprimand to Gianquinto for posting material that could give “members of the public … the impression that you were biased.” Brehmer wrote that he was satisfied that Gianquinto “appropriately addressed” his “errors in judgment,” according to the commission’s report.
Despite what Gianquinto had told Brehmer, the commissioner’s Facebook account remained public and at least six of the posts flagged by the presiding judge remained visible until at least August 2017, the commission said. Brehmer blamed his unfamiliarity with Facebook’s operations and eventually removed the posts and increased the privacy settings on his account.
The commission said Gianquinto’s actions violated numerous provisions within four judicial canons.
“Mr. Gianquinto’s conduct on Facebook was egregious, and is the type of conduct that inherently undermines public confidence in the judiciary and that brings the judicial office into disrepute,” commissioners wrote.
Media archives and the National Center for State Courts have documented occasions when judges have been disciplined for posting improper remarks and materials on social media. Just last year the Commission on Judicial Performance admonished an Orange County judge for posting unfounded accusations about a prosecutor on Facebook.
An ethics opinion by the California Judges Association warns any jurist using social media that “caution is essential.”
“Internet communications are permanent and lack the privacy of in-person or telephonic conversations,” the opinion reads. “Judges must be careful to avoid making remarks that would cast doubt on the judge’s ability to act impartially.”
The CJP’s censure is posted below: