California’s judicial discipline agency on Thursday issued a severe public censure of San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep, handing down the worst punishment possible short of removing him from the bench.
In a 67-page ruling, the Commission on Judicial Performance concluded that the judge committed 57 acts of misconduct or improper action between 2012 and 2015, many of them linked to insensitive courtroom comments that “demonstrated a lack of judicial temperament.”
Commissioners wrote that Kreep’s lengthy list of wrongdoing and his “failure to fully and honestly acknowledge the extent of misconduct” might have warranted his removal. But six of the 10 voting commission members favored censure instead, noting that many of his misdeeds occurred shortly after he was elected or within his first year in office. [The remaining four commissioners would have ousted Kreep.]
“Severe public censure,” the commission wrote, “best fulfills our mandate to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Kreep has been a controversial figure since his campaign, having earlier participated in unsuccessful litigation challenging President Barack Obama’s eligibility to hold office.
Kreep’s 2012 judicial campaign got him in trouble with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which concluded in 2015 that he improperly tracked personal spending and failed to report accrued expenses. Kreep agreed to pay $6,000 in penalties as part of a stipulation with the state agency.
Kreep, the commission said, inappropriately used nicknames for attorneys appearing in his courtroom, including “bunhead,” “dimples” and “shorty.” He also commented about the physical appearances of female attorneys, according to the commission’s allegations, saying during a July 2013 proceeding “We got all sorts of very attractive, young [public defenders] around here,” and “She’s a pretty girl, you know you can smile.”
Kreep also made comments about an attorney’s pregnancy, asked an accused prostitute if she “did it for the money or the action,” and called an adult “little boy,” the commission said. Investigators said he also improperly asked attorneys questions about cases that were not before him and, in one property case, injected his own personal experiences into the proceedings.
“Judge Kreep acknowledges that a lot of the things he was accused of he did and were not appropriate,” said Kreep’s attorney, James Murphy, founding partner of Murphy Pearson Bradley & Feeney in San Francisco.
“He’s certainly heeded to the advice and instructions given to him by his presiding judges and he has sought out counsel from other members of the bench. And he’s worked very hard to make himself a good judge and a better judge,” Murphy said.