A Napa County judge faces reprimand for allegedly stealing—and later returning—several pricey business card holders from a San Francisco social club.
The Commission on Judicial Performance has charged Superior Court Judge Michael Williams with willful misconduct, prejudicial conduct that brings disrepute to the judicial office and improper action. The allegations expose Williams to findings that could lead to his admonishment, his censure or even his expulsion from the bench.
An attorney for Williams, Edith Matthai of Robie & Matthai, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Williams, the supervising judge in the family and juvenile divisions of the Napa court, earns about $191,000 a year. A call to the judge’s chambers was not immediately returned.
The commission said Williams pocketed an art deco-style card holder belonging to The City Club of San Francisco as he was leaving an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers dinner there on March 9, 2016. The judge left “and then returned and took one or two more [card holders] before taking an elevator down to the first floor,” according to the commission.
Each card holder was worth about $50, the commission said, making Williams’ alleged actions potentially chargeable as petty theft. The holders contained business cards for the club’s managers, the commission said.
On March 28, 2016, a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers told Williams he had been spotted on video taking the card holders. The next day the judge sent a package to The City Club containing the holders and an apology letter that said, “I have no excuse but I had a couple of glasses of wine and was not thinking of what I was doing,” the commission said.
Two days later Williams reported to the commission what had happened, blaming his actions on an “unexplainable impulse” to use the holders to display decades-old “joke” business cards he had recently rediscovered.
Williams, a former general counsel to the Napa court and a court commissioner, was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. He has no history of public discipline, according to records on the judicial commission’s website.