Trice appeals to the public to save his judicial seat

October 27, 2015

justice 2By CCN STAFF

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge John Trice is apparently facing charges of misconduct before the Judicial Council and the California Supreme Court according to a press release received from his defense attorney, Eugene Iredale with Iredale and Yoo, out of San Diego.

The California Commission on Judicial Performance is responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and for disciplining judges. Following an investigation, if allegations of serious misconduct are substantiated, a judge facing disciplinary actions is offered a hearing to show cause why discipline should not be imposed.

Iredale blames a chaotic, high pressure environment fueled by feuding judges in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court for Trice’s troubles. Iredale plans to prove Trice did not use his office to benefit himself during his divorce, did not fail to disclose a close friendship with an attorney who argued cases in his court and that he was not involved in caustic injudicious treatment of other judges and court personnel.


Here is the entire press release including support statements:

Judge John Trice of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court has been notified by the California Commission on Judicial Performance they are initiating the formal hearing proceedings he has requested.

The Commission will request that the California Supreme Court appoint three Special Masters to convene a public hearing to investigate claims concerning steps Judge Trice took, as a private citizen, to finalize a 25-year-old marital settlement agreement with his former spouse; claims that he made intemperate remarks in emails to a judge and a court administrator occurring in connection with the daily business of the court, and a technical failure to make disclosure of his long-time friendship with a well-known local attorney who regularly appeared before the court.

Judge Trice appreciates the opportunity that the Commission has granted him to fully and publicly examine the true nature of his actions, occurring as part of the tense, pressure-filled, day-to-day environment of the court. As to his personal marital settlement, the evidence will show that he acted responsibly to fairly meet his obligations as he understood them. The communications with other bench officers and staff will be shown to be the routine byproduct of the stressful and pressurized environment of the court, which were sometimes blunt and direct, but acceptable in the setting and circumstances in which they were made. The evidence will also show that in the close-knit San Luis Obispo legal community, attorneys on both sides were fully aware of the social relationship between Judge Trice and the appearing attorney. The burden of proof at the hearing lies with the accusers. That burden, under California law is “clear and convincing” evidence, the same legal burden the state must meet before removing children from a parent’s home.

Lack of court leadership and chronic dissension has led to a fractured San Luis Obispo bench, with two distinct, persistent and sometimes feuding factions, infecting relationships among many members of the court. Judge Trice, with the assistance of others on the bench, took a proactive and visionary approach, working to end the problems of the court. They arranged for a state-provided judicial mediator to work with the court as a whole, to find solutions that would serve the court and the community. This effort was intended to lessen personal animosity, and at the same time, to allow the public to enjoy the quality of justice it deserves. Unfortunately, the current presiding and assistant presiding judges refused to cooperate with, or participate in the mediation opportunity.

Judge Trice looks forward to the opportunity to have a full, fair, and impartial hearing before the Special Masters. We are confident that when all the evidence is heard, the Commission will be convinced that the claims of misconduct are factually and legally unfounded.

Judge Trice urges other judicial officers throughout the state who are also wrongfully accused to take advantage of the formal proceeding forum offered by the Commission to properly and publicly address unfounded complaints against state judicial officers.

Members of the San Luis Obispo bar and community have been steadfast in expressing their support for a respected member of the judiciary. Among others, the following have expressed their continuing confidence in Judge Trice:


San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham:

“As a trial attorney, I’ve been appearing in the San Luis Obispo county courts on a daily basis for 35 years. Many of those years, I was assigned to Superior Court Judge John Trice’s courtroom. In my opinion, Judge Trice exhibits those qualities that I have come to most appreciate in a judge. He is intelligent, even-tempered, fair, patient, and he has a good sense of humor. Even before Marcy’s law was enacted, he always treated victims in his courtroom with dignity and respect. He allows them as much time as they need when they struggle to get their stories and feelings out. He treats defendants, attorneys, witnesses, jurors and staff with dignity as well.

He works hard, and is always prepared. On those occasions when he has ruled against me, I knew that my arguments had been heard and considered, and the issue was one on which reasonable minds may differ. It has been a pleasure to appear in Judge Trice’s court. The San Luis Obispo bench is a better place because of his presence.”


Honorable Roger Picquet, Superior Court Judge, Retired

“Judge Trice is a great judge. I have worked closely with him the entire time he has been on the bench. He has handled some of the most difficult criminal cases ever tried in this county, and has done so with skill, professionalism and a keen sensitivity for all persons involved, including the jurors, victims, attorneys and defendants. His legal acumen and judgment is very well respected. His dedication to this community is also reflected in his involvement and creation of the Veterans Treatment Court, which is now seen as a successful model for other courts in the state.”


James Maguire, III, public defender, San Luis Obispo County:

“I have known Judge Trice for more than 30 years. As Public Defender, I was often his adversary when he was with the District Attorney’s office, including one death penalty case, which was granted a change of venue, and was ultimately televised for American Justice. After he was elected to the bench, I was Team Leader of several public defenders in his courtroom over a period of years. There have been long periods of time when I have seen Judge Trice in action on a daily basis. I can say without reservation that there is no better judicial officer on our bench. He is ethical. He is fair. He is skilled at combining legal scholarship and practicality in arriving at his rulings and verdicts.

Ours is a small legal community. Everyone, both lawyers and judicial officers, are highly visible. You do something well, everybody knows. You do something wrong, everybody knows. Among the practitioners I associate with, Judge Trice’s reputation is of the highest quality.”


Pete Pepper, co-coordinator, mentoring program, San Luis Obispo County Veterans Treatment Court:

“Judge John Trice is a very powerful advocate for the veteran community, regularly demonstrating insight and compassion while presiding over the Veterans Treatment Court. As a Co-Coordinator for the court’s mentoring program, I have witnessed firsthand his sensitivity and understanding of the challenges our veterans face as they return to our community. Having served in many roles in the Air Force, Judge Trice is intimately aware of what it takes to guide our veterans back. Mentors and veterans alike greatly admire his hard work, good guidance and understanding. Judge Trice’s commitment emerges from the sacred obligation he feels to help those who have served, especially combat vets. Time and again, I have witnessed his willingness to go the extra mile, in the hope of healing the harm which came to vets while serving our country. We are extremely fortunate to have Judge Trice in the Veterans Court. Attend any session and you will witness the admiration and devotion which he has earned from the veterans he serves.”


Cindy Marie Absey, former director of the district attorney victim assistance unit:

“As director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Division of the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office for 30 years, I worked with John Trice both in his career as a prosecutor and later as a judge. During his prosecution of the Rex Krebs capital murder case in 1999-2000, I witnessed firsthand John’s consummate competency and compassionate and respectful treatment of crime victims and their families. Over his years on the bench, Judge Trice has conducted countless hearings and trials with professional and respectful comportment towards all court users, and has consistently ensured that the rights of crime victims were balanced with those of offenders.”


Jeffrey Stein, private criminal defense lawyer:

“In the more than 30 years that I have known John Trice, from his arrival in San Luis Obispo to work as a district attorney, through his successful campaign for Superior Court office, I have come to a profound respect for his integrity, dedication and excellence as a trial lawyer and judge, doing the difficult work necessary in the criminal courts. He has always fought hard but fair as a prosecutor, and went to great lengths as a judge to find individualized, creative, compassionate solutions for those worthy, by history or situation, of a second chance, while displaying toughness when facts warranted. Our relationship has always been a professional one, never having been social companions. I come to this perspective purely from professional admiration.

In the end, the community is best served by the criminal justice system when dedicated, talented people devote themselves to safeguarding the public welfare, using wisdom and experience to craft balanced and individualized solutions. Judge Trice is just such a person. He is a dedicated public servant, striving to advance the greater good, and acting in an ethical, responsible and passionate way, seeking to give the public the justice that they deserve.”


Jim Merzon, retired civil practice attorney:

“Judge John Trice and his wife were our neighbors for a number of years. As neighbors, we got to know Judge Trice’s family, and found them always to be considerate neighbors, enjoying being part of many family events at their home. I knew Judge Trice when he was in the District Attorney’s office and during his early years on the bench. He has always enjoyed a deservedly fine reputation as a prosecutor. As a criminal courts judge, he has proven himself as hard-working, knowledgeable and considerate, yet not afraid to impose sentences that fit the crime. In my experience, he has won the admiration of both prosecutors and defense attorneys.”

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Our community is fortunate to have Judge John Trice on the bench. He is effecient, professional and handles matters in his courtroom with integrity; sit in his courtroom for any length of time and it will be apparent. He is respectful and courteous to each individual who enters his courtroom. He has been happily married to his wife, who is a court reporter, since 2002. Court Reporters do not work shifts, nor do they have “special” assignments; that is incorrect information.

So some time ago i sent a email to Court Executive Susan Matherly about Judge Harmon filing a complaint against Judge Trice, of course she (Matherly) skirted the issue. Judge Trice is a man of integrity, ethics and decency not only as a Judge for Prosecutor and retired USAF LTC who served his nation with honor.

He also has been instrumental in the Veterans Treatment Court, I have no doubt he will be completely exonerated. One thing in our local legal system that needs a real investigation is into the abuses of County Counsel Rita Neal and her close personal relationship with Tana Coates who oddly has one of the major county contracts ?

Rita Neal has been caught hiring “Friends ” on county tax payer funds, to alter evidence , impede investigations, commit perjury , witness tampering, lying to insurance companies for personal gain, she went to every family law Lawyer in SLO so her no X Husband Jack Neal had to go to Santa Barbara to hire a family law lawyer this is how evil and corrupt Rita Neal is, she is a disgrace to her profession, had no moral compass, no ethics and is a bold faced LIAR.

Rita Neal is one who should be disbarred, which may happen once the ongoing Bar investigation is over and when she is called to testify next year in a case where she is accused of perjury, fabrications, altering emails, evidence and lying and paying Tana Coates to lie as well, thus far two County Dept, heads have been caught committing PERJURY all on the official court records.

Our local system is broken including the many LEO’s who have been fired, arrested, terminated we now hold the State records for bad LEO”s per capita.

What was the nature of Judge Harmon’s complaint?

Amen, Brother!

If people knew how Rita Neal is fleecing the county by basing her salary on totally incomparable positions in the state they would crap their pants. HR recommended the comparisons to enable Neal to receive the big raise. Oh, by the way, Neal provides HR with legal advice….hmmmmmm.

As I recall, John Trice was duly elected an has remained a person that walks among us. I am not particularly a satisfied customer of our local justice but I do support what we have and write off my discomfort as growing pains. My hat is off to those who are willing to work in this profession. Best wishes to Judge Trice.

Thanks for the information about other judges. However, you bring up another point that confirms my “Good Lord” comment.

If Trice’s former wife was “demanding” or “asking for” the best shifts, it’s the court administrator’s responsibility to just say no. Are they so weak and spineless that they can’t do their jobs? Then, they need to be removed from employment.

The judge who needs to be shown the door is Umhoffer. Anybody who has any knowledge of his courtroom would agree. Wouldn’t doubt one bit if HE is a “leader” of one of the factions.

Judge Umhofer is retired and sits only by assignment. He’s not an active member of the bench and is very unlikely to be part of any “faction” in SLO County Superior Court.

That may be true, but his behavior in court on one of his “assignments” recently was deplorable. I was also in his court at a prelim years ago and his reasoning was absolutely stupid. Guy has been a moron in my mind ever since.

This is an interesting story, I hand DELIVERED a CONFIDENTIAL envelope with official court records that “leaked” out, others were pictures i obtained by one of County Counsel Rita Neals hires PI’s who turned on her. It had information on the snooping on Judges snooping on several local defense lawyers, meeting with some current judges meeting with several DAA’s including Sheryl Wolcott yet Susan Matherly said they never got them ? will I hand delivered it ? and the cameras in the clerks office show that so where did the envelope go ? if the Judge did not get it, ? he got my private emails just fine, probably because he used his private (Server) email and not the courts more cover ups. Has anyone notice the Courts removal of all the Disabled parking slots in the parking lot next to the court ? accord to Mr. Savage of the county stated today ” we are in compliance” they were removed so the disabled public could not park where the DDA’s wanted more free parking so the county removed them at the request of non other than the DA himself who once tooted how he supports us disabled veterans now the truth is known.

Judge ye lest ye be judged.

Good Lord, THIS is called judicial misconduct. Intemperate remarks in an email to another judge and an administrator? Not disclosing a friendship with an attorney in a county where they all know each other? I can’t speak to the charge of “using his office to benefit himself in finalizing a divorce settlement”; I can only imagine that someone thought he had an employee type something for him.

For this, some petty fool(s) reported judicial misconduct? I can’t wait to find out who the petty fool(s) are, and what is going on in our SLO court system.

As a retired police officer I always found Judge Trice to be fair and even handed to both sides. He was blunt and to the point but that was necessary to keep long winded attorneys from wasting air and time.

I was wondering why this letter appeared in the Tribune, seemingly from left field.

I sure would like to know what the “two distinct, persistent and sometimes feuding factions” are, and the causes behind them.