Judge John Trice accepts disciplinary action
February 4, 2016
By CCN STAFF
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge John Trice admitted to misconduct and accepted public censure, according to a Feb. 4 California Commission on Judicial Performance decision and order. Of the six types of disciplinary actions available, public censure is only one step from removal from the bench.
This was the second time the commission has disciplined Judge Trice in the past four years. In 2012, Judge Trice received an advisory letter for continuing to preside over a case he had earlier recused himself from.
In late October, Judge Trice’s San Diego based attorney Eugene G. Iredale asked for a public hearing to investigate charges that Judge Trice failed to abide by a court order to provide part of his military retirement benefits to an ex-wife, failed to formally disclose a friendship with an attorney who argued cases in his court and that his conduct with other members of the court has been improper and intemperate.
The Supreme Court then appointed three special masters, including Hon. Anthony J. Mohr, to hold an evidentiary hearing.
In January, Judge Trice filed a motion to have Judge Mohr’s “recused from his case because “of Mohr’s professional relationship with Judge Harman on a Committee of the California Judges Association for several years, and because Harman was a critical witness whose credibility was at issue,” Iredale said in his press release.
Before the judges made a decision on whether or not to remove Judge Mohr from Judge Trice’s case, the parties signed the stipulation for discipline by consent.
In the agreement, the parties agreed to the “imposition of a public censure based upon the stipulated facts and legal conclusions,” the agreement says. “Judge Trice expressly admits the truth of the stipulated facts and agrees with the stipulated legal conclusions.”
Nevertheless, in his press release, Iredale questions procedures and practices of the commission.
“It is critical for the future regulation of judicial conduct in our own state, that the commission itself engage in serious reflection and study of how to restructure its processes to avoid the appearance, if not the reality, of unfairness,” Iredale’s press release says.
The press release also questions tone and content of emails exchanges between Judge Dodie Harman, a commissioner and another judge of the court, “in which the three engaged in petty derision of Judge Trice, and other judges, including calling the then presiding judge of the court “clueless.”
The Iredale press release: