Thursday, October 18, 2012

U.S. Attorney: Members Felt Filner 'Embarrassed Himself' at Temple Forum

It's okay to lie, but not okay to call someone a liar? I think Laura Duffy should also have apologized to Filner for Carl DeMaio's making a false statement about Filner's pension.

U.S. Attorney: Members Felt Filner 'Embarrassed Himself' at Temple Forum
October 18, 2012
Voice of San Diego

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, the federal government's top law enforcement official in San Diego, was not very happy with U.S. Rep. Bob Filner Sunday.

Filner appeared with his rival for the mayor's office Carl DeMaio at Temple Emanu-El Sunday in a forum designed to let a number of candidates speak and take questions from the audience. Duffy, as a member of the temple, helped organize the event. She was not working in her capacity as head of the Justice Department's presence in San Diego.

The candidates had been told not to treat it as a debate. Filner, Duffy told me, "had issues."

"I know the event that was intended and it went far afield from what he was invited to do and I was sorry to see that happen," she told me.

Wherever Filner took it, DeMaio helped him get there. DeMaio challenged Filner to say he would not take a city pension if elected mayor. DeMaio said it would be a $120,000 pension and cited a Voice of San Diego report, which actually shows the majority of that pension would not come from the city.

DeMaio didn't mention that part.

It set Filner off.

"I wanted this to be a civil debate, but he's a liar. He knows he's a liar," Filner said from the podium at the temple. DeMaio's team posted a video of the exchange here.

Duffy sent an email apologizing to DeMaio's campaign, which the campaign then passed on to reporters. It was underneath an email with story ideas and links to that YouTube video and others.

Campaign Manager Ryan Clumpner claims forwarding the email to reporters was inadvertent. It showed Duffy was not pleased with Filner in the apology she sent DeMaio's team.

"Our apologies that Filner had to be admonished about his uncivil 'debate-style' remarks," Duffy wrote in the email to a DeMaio aide, Tommy Knepper. "If it is any consultation (sic), I heard more than one temple member express their view that he embarrassed himself and that they thought Carl appeared far more mature and capable of addressing the challenges San Diego faces."

If Filner was guilty of making “’debate-style’ remarks,” it’s hard to see how DeMaio didn’t also bend the rules (though he kept a cooler head)...

Judicial temperament? Facebook posts, lawsuit raise judgment issues in election for San Diego judge

Kudos to reporter Miriam Raftery for this important article. By shedding light on Jim Miller's actions, this information helped the Lincoln Club's decision to switch its endorsement to Robert Amador, Stirling reveals.

By Miriam Raftery
East County Magazine
May 30, 2012
San Diego

Accusations are flying in the contentious race for San Diego Superior Court seat 25. Candidate Jim Miller has been removed as a Judge Pro Tem by the Superior Court—and now he’s crying foul.

Miller claims he’s a victim of dirty politics. He’s accused one of his opponents, Robert Amador, of involvement in his ouster, a claim denied by Amador, who previously sued Miller over ballot statement claims.

Miller maintains he knows of no legitimate reason for the court to remove him from its list of approved Judges Pro Tem.

Posts on Miller’s Facebook page, however reveal some intemperate remarks made about cases he heard while serving as a Judge Pro Tem--as well as barbed criticisms of local attorneys, judges, and parties in cases he handled as a lawyer.

Some of the remarks appear to violate California’s judicial canon of ethics, which prohibit judges from discussing pending cases including cases which could be appealed. The rules also require judges to maintain impartiality, avoid the appearance of bias, and refrain from political activities.

Use of social media by judges and attorneys is among the hottest ethics issues today in the legal profession, according to Wendy Patrick, a legal ethics expert.

At a panel on legal ethics presented by Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego in April 2011 (Miller's alma mater), Justice Richard Huffman of the Fourth District Appeals Court told attendees that "it is unethical to publicly discuss any pending case, whether it is yours or not. Social media is becoming a problem for judges who should ask themselves - `what does this look like?'" He reminded those present that "a judge must disclose any fact where a reasonable person may believe a judge cannot be impartial."

While serving as Judge Pro Tem, Miller discussed facts of a case in mid-hearing. The dispute involved two sisters suing each other over an attack.

“One was in post pardum [cq] depression and living with her own husband and family at the home of the other sister’s ex husband who is/was not paying child support,” Miller wrote, among other personal details of the case divulged. He likened the scenario to the Jerry Springer or Judge Judy televisions hows.

After winning a custody case in which he represented the father, he referred to the mother in these derogatory terms: “This mom was a piece of…”

He called one local lawyer “a shining example of a greedy unprepared attorney…”

He also blasted law enforcement. “If this CHPer was a “good guy” he wouldn’t have to lie his butt off to get a conviction,” Miller said of an officer who testified in cell phone ticket case that Miller handled for a friend.

He went on to complain that “The commissioner will not hear anymore cases from me as she seems more concerned with her own version of the law than what it says and what the facts are."

Miller even criticized judges, a taboo in the legal profession.

“I bet you didn’t know that the CA Supreme Court a few days ago wiped out a century of law that protects those injured in accidents and handed billions to the insurance industry,” he wrote, calling the decision a "low point” and a “horrible decision.”

He railed against a PETA lawsuit against Sea World, noting “I hope the judge who gets this case tosses it out as fast as procedure allows.”

Miller criticized Governor Jerry Brown for a bill he signed, noting, “I don’t know the constitutional rational for granting it.” He slammed President Barack Obama for not deporting illegal immigrants. He also expressed political views on the war and on Pakistan.

In addition, Miller took pot-shots at his opponents as “retread government lawyers.”

To say that Miller and Amador have run a less than amicable race would be a severe understatement. Amador filed a lawsuit against Miller over claims made in his ballot statement; Miller in turn has accused Amador of committing perjury.

Miller, Schaefer, Foothills Bar Assocation's Mark Raftery, and Amador

Amador contacted ECM yesterday to state that during an interview with the UT San Diego editorial board at which all three candidates were present (Amador, Miller, and George Schaefer), Miller was asked if he had been delisted as a Judge Pro Tem.

“That was shocking to Mr. Schaefer and I,” Amador told ECM.

ECM contacted both the court and Miller for comment.

“I can confirm that he is no longer on the Pro Tem list,” said Karen Dalton, public affairs officer at the San Diego Superior Court. Dalton said she was unable to disclose why Miller was no longer on the list, nor what reasons would warrant removal of a Pro Tem judge from the list.

Miller advised ECM that he been on the list from 2008 until late April. “I believe someone is playing gamesmanship with me in an election year,” he said.

Asked if he has been the subject of any complaints or disciplinary action as a Judge Pro Tem, Miller replied, “No.” He further defended his record:“I have never had a decision that I made as Pro Tem overturned on a de novo appeal.”

Then he blasted his opponent. “I am not happy with Mr. Amador’s gamesmanship or the reach of the D.A.’’s office onto our bench.”

Amador has spent 29 years as a prosecutor in the San Diego District Attorney’s office. He disputed Miller’s assertion. “No one from the D.A.’s office had anything to do with the Superior Court,” he said, adding that his first inkling of Miller’s delisting came at the UT San Diego editorial board meeting. “As with ost things with Mr. Miller, when things don’t go his way, his response is to attack and blame rather than to accept responsibility.

In a judicial candidate forum last week hosted by Foothills Bar Association, Miller first raised allegations of political bias by suggesting that a “lacking qualifications” rating of his candidacy by the San Diego Bar Association reflected a bias toward “government lawyers.”

Both Amador Schaefer, have backgrounds as prosecutors with district attorneys’ offices. Amador is a career prosecutor; Schaefer has worked both as a prosecutor and public defender. Both received “well qualified” ratings. Miller, by contrast, is an El Cajon attorney in private practice who has run a campaign centered around a need for judges with backgrounds in family and civil law.

Amador filed a lawsuit seeking to force Miller to remove key information from his ballot statement. “Mr. Miller has tried to imply that he has a significant amount of judicial experience when he does not,” said Amador. “We did discovery and found that he has only been a Judge Pro Tem a total of 23 times…he hasn’t been an arbitrator for three years..”

Miller’s ballot statement lists him as an attorney and arbitrator. Amador sought to have the term arbitrator removed. Amador also asked to have Miller’s experience as a Judge Pro Tem removed, but the Judge ruled that Miller had a right to include both in his ballot statement.

“Mr. Amador committed perjury in his lawsuit against me,” Miller charged.

Amador denies that, adding, “The judge found he [Miller] made false and misleading statements .” Indeed, the Judge ruled that Miller’s claim of 440,000 votes in 2010 was “misleading” because he apparently combined votes in the Primary and General elections. In addition, Miller closed his statement by referring “a judge from San Diego, for San Diego,” which the court required be changed to a “judicial candidate.”...

Mr. Miller contacted us after this story ran to clarify that he did not intend to suggest Mr. Amador committed perjury, but rather to state that “If Mr.Ottilie was to be believed in his version of the conversation than Mr. Amador committed perjury,” a reference to Miller’s attorney, Bob Ottillie.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lincoln Club reverses its endorsement of unqualified candidate for superior court

I posted about this bizarre election HERE.

Someone apparently convinced the Lincoln Club that they were already far enough to the right without endorsing a crackpot.

Lincoln Club Reverses Miller Endorsement, Switches Support To Amador
October 11, 2012
By Ryann Grochowski

A prominent pro-business political club reversed its endorsement of attorney, Jim Miller Jr., for a seat on the Superior Court bench after it discovered Miller had not been forthright about his credentials.

The board of the San Diego Lincoln Club voted instead to support the other candidate in the race, veteran prosecutor Robert Amador.

The group’s Wednesday night decision is the latest twist in the only judicial election on the ballot next month. Campaigns for judge are usually low-key races, but the race for seat 25 has attracted endorsements from local tea parties, been the subject of a lawsuit and sparked debate on illegal immigration.

The issue of qualifications has been front and center: the San Diego County Bar Association rated Miller “lacking qualifications” and Amador “well-qualified.”

The Lincoln Club revoked its endorsement of Miller, an attorney in private practice in El Cajon, after it discovered Miller had misled the club about being removed from the county’s list of pro-tem, or fill-in, judges.

In a statement, the club said, “Mr. Miller failed to mention the adverse action on the club’s questionnaire and later misrepresented the facts when asked to comment on the allegations in private. Such conduct does not meet the high ethical standards that Lincoln Club members believe are required for judicial officers.”

Miller was quoted in an I-Newsource/KBPS story last month, saying he was removed from the pro-tem list in the spring, but that the court did not provide him with a reason for the dismissal.

Miller, who has been endorsed by the San Diego County Republican Party and local tea parties, e-mailed a comment.

“I am attempting to discuss the matter directly with the club,” he said. “I hold the Lincoln Club in high respect but think, without hesitation, they are working off of incorrect information. No one should consider this issue over for now.”

Miller’s campaign for judge highlights his “outsider” status and is critical of the large number of former prosecutors on the bench. He ran for Superior Court in 2010 on essentially the same platform and only narrowly lost.

The Lincoln Club, a political organization that supports business-friendly candidates, had originally endorsed Miller in March after interviews with both candidates. Though Superior Court races are nonpartisan, it is common for political groups to make endorsements.

Above: Bob Amador, candidate for San Diego Superior Court Judge No. 25 Larry Stirling, a club member and retired Superior Court judge, said revoking an endorsement is unusual but not unprecedented. He could not recall specifics.

“We were presented with additional information after the initial endorsement,” he said.“We checked at great length and we became concerned that the initial endorsement needed to be changed.”

The club received confirmation of Miller’s removal from the Superior Court, but the court would not reveal the reason behind the removal.

The Lincoln Club donated $2,500 to Miller’s campaign on Sept. 27, according to campaign finance filings. Stirling said the club would not ask Miller to return the money.

“We made a contribution in due course, and that was before we were able to confirm the information that caused us to reverse,” Stirling said.

As far as the endorsement, however, Stirling said the Lincoln Club had no choice once they determined Miller had misrepresented facts.

“We could have let it go and just crossed our fingers, but we felt that we had a responsibility to the voting public to tell them what we knew about it and urge them to change their vote,” Stirling said.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Amador was pleased with the club’s decision. Amador is also a Republican, but has the support of people on both sides of the political aisle, as well as much of the legal community’s establishment.

“A judge or judicial candidate’s ethics should be beyond question,” Amador said. “Apparently the Lincoln Club was misled by Mr. Miller, but they followed up and had the courage to change their endorsement. I thank them for the support and endorsement.”

On Oct. 9, Miller wrote a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, thanking the Lincoln Club for their support. The post was removed on Thursday.

Amador, a 29-year veteran of the county district attorney’s office, has raised nearly $115,000 in outside contributions this election, about $53,000 more than Miller. Amador sued Miller in the primary over ballot language. And though immigration is not a subject within the purview of Superior Court judges, it has played a part in Miller’s campaign. Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, primary sponsor of SB 1070, the state’s strict anti-illegal immigration bill, appeared at a fundraiser for Miller in April.

There are more than 110 active Superior Court judges in San Diego County. Some are appointed by the governor and then subject to election by the voters. Others, like Amador and Miller, run for an open seat outright. Judges serve six-year terms.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

San Diego Judges keep car perks

Judges shouldn't have their compensation cut. There is no fat to cut in the courts, but slabs of it are kept out of sight in other agencies. The State Parks and Recreation Department was caught sitting on $54 Million in extra funds while 70 state parks across California struggled to stay open. Since the Parks Department only had a $22 million budget shortfall, that leaves $32 million that could be given to the courts. Furthermore, I think judges' pay should be raised; then we could replace some of the floundering judges with more competent jurists.

Judges keep car perks
By Dave Maass
City Beat
Sep 25, 2012

Through a summer-long media blitz, San Diego County Superior Court officials warned the public about drastic, near-cataclysmic reductions in services on the horizon.

“The cuts envisioned by our budget reduction plan will affect every judge, court employee and ultimately the litigants, court users and citizens in San Diego County,” Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta said in a June statement. “These cuts will significantly reduce or eliminate access to our court system and are devastating to those of us who have worked so hard to convince the Governor and Legislature that such cuts threaten the stability of our third branch of government.”

The California budget crisis has trickled down to the local justice level, with the San Diego County court looking to make up a $33-million shortfall in what had been a $190-million budget. The court was ordered to drain its rainy-day reserves—roughly $22 million—leaving $11 million left to slice in the coming fiscal year, with even bigger cuts predicted in the next cycles.

As fall arrives, the court has begun shutting down outlying courtrooms, shortening hours, laying off some employees and furloughing others.

But the Superior Court did not cut one line item: nearly $1 million per year in transportation allowances set aside for judges and executive managers.

San Diego judges each receive $572 per month ($6,864 annually) in car stipends, while the presiding judge, assistant presiding judge and supervising judges each collect $674 per month ($8,088 annually).

Between the 126 current judges, that’s $903,427 per year in vehicle allowances. Nine administrators collected a combined $59,472 per year, bringing the figure to $962,899. Another $8,281 was reimbursed for out-of-county travel.

The 24-year-old practice is particular to San Diego County as a carryover from when the county government paid for the courts and the benefit was tied to the Board of Supervisors’ compensation package. Now, the state funds the court, and there’s no mandate from Sacramento to provide these vehicle allowances...