First-Ever State Audit Aims to Hold Judges Accountable

Lawmakers have called for an audit of California’s Commission on Judicial Performance for the first time in the agency’s 56-year history.

The commission, which is responsible for disciplining judges, has drawn the ire of activists who say it protects bad jurists and from bench officers who say it over-penalizes them for minor missteps.

A joint audit committee of the California Legislature authorized the review in a unanimous vote this week. The audit will look at 26 issues, including whether the commission upholds due process when looking into allegations against judges and how investigators determine which complaints to dismiss.

In the past decade, the judicial commission has fielded anywhere from 900 to 1,200 complaints about judges each year. But 90 percent of those cases were closed right away, while more resulted in no discipline even after an investigation.

Only 3.4 percent ended in disciplinary action, and less than a percent led to public censure. None of these decisions were transparent.

Critics have demanded accountability for the judicial commission for years, claiming the agency works in secret and gives biased and inept judges a pass. In Santa Clara County, the criticism has largely centered on family court.

Roberta Fitzpatrick, who attended Wednesday’s hearing in Sacramento, filed a complaint against a Santa Clara County judge for granting custody of her niece to a known abuser.

In 2005, a family court judge sent 14-year-old Alycia Mesiti-Allen to live with her father, Mark Mesiti, despite a documented history of drug abuse and domestic violence. Four years later, cadaver-sniffing dogs found Alycia’s body buried in the backyard of her father’s Modesto home. Mesiti was charged with murdering and raping his daughter.

In 2010, Fitzpatrick filed a complaint with the commission, which closed the case a year later without recourse. A letter announcing the dismissal said the agency found no grounds for disciplinary action. The lack of transparency in how the commission reaches those decisions has become a common frustration.

Scrutiny of the judicial commission intensified this summer after Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky sentenced disgraced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months for sexual assaulting a woman on campus. In an effort to oust the judge, activists gathered thousands of signatures and filed complaints with the judicial commission. But, as in every case involving a judge, the agency will not disclose how many complaints have been logged against Persky and how many will be investigated.

Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon), Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) co-signed the audit authorization with state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

“This is about more than one case, one judge, one issue, or one side,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “This commission has never before been audited in its 56-year history, and the public and the legal community have questions that deserve answers.”

The commission’s chief counsel said the agency welcomes the scrutiny as a chance to prove that it has been a responsible steward of public money, despite huge budget cuts.

“While some take issue with some determinations by the commission, when the Supreme Court has had occasion to pass on commission decisions, the commission's action has been upheld 90 percent of the time,” the commission wrote. “We welcome the opportunity to show that the commission follows the Constitution, the decisions of the Supreme Court and the commission’s own rules ... to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

29 Comments

  1. I had a trial before a Vietnamese Judge who tried to convict me for 30 minutes and finally acquitted me under her breath and reluctantly. Turned out that she allowed an action properly filed in Alameda to come to SCCSC by accepting it and taking it away from the Judge who would have heard it, if juris was waived) which it wasn’t. Then it is found out that she was in the same class and graduated from Law School with the Prosecuting Attorney, They were long standing friends. Then it was discovered that she met with the Prosecuting Attorney outside of Court prior to the trial and discussed how his Law Firm really wanted the hearing due to my Law Suit with the City of San Jose. I was in Zurich, Mountain climbing and was involved in the hearing by cell phone. I had never been served and found out about the hearing going forward by accident. I called the court and demanded to appear by phone. My demand was granted. So I won the decision climbing a Mountain upside down on a cell phone. Shows you what a weak case it was. I checked into the Judge and found you couldn’t complain against her cause she was the California’s Commission on Judicial Performance. She also had a psychiatric problem. Gender Identification Disorder which probably made her emotionally unstable???

  2. She also had a psychiatric problem. Gender Identification Disorder which probably made her emotionally unstable???

    Change she to he as in you and we all know why you lost your job as a police officer and your law suit again the City of San Jose and the SJPD.

  3. Thank you San Jose Inside, Silicon Valley Metro, and reporter Jennifer Wadsworth for reporting this important story. Santa Clara County court users – and especially those without attorneys – have long been aware of systemic corruption in the local courts. Most common is the collusion between many judges and their favorite attorneys. Conflicts of interest go undisclosed. Complaints made to the state Commission on Judicial Performance are dismissed as the rantings of disgruntled litigants who have lost a court decision or case. Please stay with this story and dig deeper, Santa Clara County court corruption runs deep and is difficult to untangle.

    • I am desperate to have my story heard and have been told I should turn to the press. I lost custody of my youngest daughter while the same courts gave me custody her two older sisters, from a previous marriage. Father moved our daughter (without my knowledge or the court’s knowledge) to Canada. I have been desperately fighting to get her back, but Judge Rudy keeps pushing out the court dates. Everyone that knows me and my story, is heartbroken. There has been an injustice beyond comprehension and the California family courts are completely disinterested in helping me regain my rights. I could not afford an attorney and father spent over $250,000. We have been told that we have the largest case file at the Santa Clara courthouse. I even battled breast cancer and was denied visitation by father. The court ridiculed me.

      I have been advised to file a complaint against Judge Christopher Rudy, and will be doing so tomorrow.

      We need our story to be heard. Our daughter is living in Canada, completely isolated and is refused communication with her sisters and me. I got a psychologist involved, who does evaluations for court, and he said that our daughter is exhibiting signs of severe depression. She is only 9.

      The system has failed us all. There has to be accountability.

      Our initial hearing, 6 years ago, involved me (self-represented) and father’s team of lawyers (Robert Hoover and his entourage). While I was told, “you did a very good job, ‘trying’ to represent your case against one of San Jose’s top law firms”, the judge ultimately decided that father could best support our daughter. There was no consideration for the tear between her sisters or the fact that father had been the one to financially cripple me. In the end, deeper pockets and preferential treatment amongst the attorneys and judges won out.

  4. Protecting the Institutions of Government From Corruption Is Important to the Survival of a Constitutional Republic!

    Jennifer I commend you for your article regarding the upcoming audit of the Commission on Judicial Performance. It is about time! If you remember I sent you several documents back in March of this year that exposes a cheating scandal involving the US District Court in San Jose, the 9th Circuit court of Appeals and the San Jose City Attorney’s Office regarding the litigation of two lawsuits I filed against the City. There has been a criminal cover-up of this scandal by former Mayor Chuck Reed and current Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council. What is ironic about my case is that it would have never gotten this far had it not been for the actions of a corrupt small claims court commissioner in Santa Clara County who failed to make a proper ruling on my small claims case against the City. Rather, he made a bogus decision in in favor of the City that did not resolve my claim. I filed a complaint against the commissioner with the Commission on Judicial Performance, as well as, the Presiding Judge of Santa Clara County Superior Court. They did absolutely nothing. Several hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer dollars have been spent litigating my two lawsuits that are on-going because of the corrupt decisions of the courts I named. I ask no one to take my word regarding the allegations I make. Simply, ask the officials over at the US District Court, the 9th Circuit court of Appeals, and the Mayor and City Council if my claims have merit. Here are the same links I sent Jennifer back in March that have many of the details of my case. https://www.facebook.com/groups/624131267713226/
    http://crnctz.blogspot.com/2015/08/exposing-cover-up-of-cheating-scandal.html
    http://www.opnlttr.com/letter/open-letter-san-jose-mayor-sam-liccardo-and-city-council. You can come to your own conclusions. It high time we get serious about protecting the integrity of our judicial system.
    Fred Bates, SJPD retired.

    • Fred:

      I went to read your letter on Opnltr.com and there is an annoying pop-box requiring sign-in.

      I don’t give any data of any kind to websites unknown to me, and specifically, I don’t do “sign ins”.

      If you want someone to read your letter, post it on a truly open foreign.

      Also, I’m only interested in the “Executive Summary”. I don’t want to wade through all the “filings” and “process”.

  5. Thank you for covering this! We need to know these things! Great job and I will be sharing this!

  6. One million dollars spent over thirteen years combined to vacate a void order in family court. I am now on the state’s vexatious litigant list. Santa Clara family court violated FC 4065, violated jurisdiction to make orders involving a trust fund (probate court), and stare decisis is violated when lower courts must follow higher court decisions. Carlson v. Eassa, In re Marriage of Alter, Carboni v. Carboni, et al- Worst county one could find oneself in. Judge makes ex parte deal with favorite attorney to prejudice CS hearing…on and on, just my case alone. No legislative supervision in 63 years? No wonder judges violate judicial canons with impunity. Legislators, take back this mandate you gave the Commission.

  7. Let’s all wait until the audit has been concluded before we pass judgment. That’ll take a year or so. I hope Jennifer follows up on this story.

  8. Bad Judges and cheating in the court system how familiar does that sound, must go all the way to Washington.

  9. Another media source picks up this historic event! The more the media demonstrates interest, the better it will be for us and for holding everyone accountable so that this Audit doesn’t simply disappear after the findings of fact are published. We want true accountability and will hold those responsible for criminal acts liable for their actions and their actions against the legal and civil rights of those litigants they screwed over for 55 years, and
    of the CJP’s and the judges who they protected fraud and corruption and law breaking! There is much hell to pay!!!

  10. Mercury News needs to dig very deep into corruption and collusion by a number of San Mateo judges and the DA’s office.

    • Stuart: The Murky News is not in the habit of digging deeply into anything these days. For quite some time now It has been suitable only for wrapping fish and lining the bottom of bird cages.

  11. There are so many victims of the fraud upon the court that it would take years if not decades to right the wrongs of corrupt “officers of the court”

    My experience is rooted out of the Pasadena Superior Court Widespread Systemic Rampant Corruption. From attorneys knowingly telling lies in a courtroom, from judges knowing is a lie and do not stop the fraud because the judge apparently got a bribe, to documents literally missing from the files as court clerks tamper with the files, to backdating or postdating legal documents, to clerks permitting attorneys to date an answer to a complaint JULY 190, 2001 IN 2010, to closing court departments to steal properties, from using “Bait and Switch Tactics” to guide case to a purchase predictive verdict, to manipulation distortion and misreading of the law, to ignoring the Pro Se Law, to solicit bribes in COURT, this last one in court transcripts. In plain and simple terms this is a court Maffia that will not, and shall not give citizens Due Process if you do not hire an officer to enter this exclusive country club!

    Source: Death of Justice System by Gene Wzorek.
    Solution to prove frcp rule 60(d)(3): GIVE ME MY AUDIOTAPES OF ALL OF MY PROCEEDINGS.

      • C.C.C Probate Deptartment 14. Sugiyama???. The worst. Only will listen if you are an attorney. You dont wanna go to that room without one. One of the attorneys I spoke with in a
        “free consultation” referred to Sugiyama as MY DUDE. WTF????

  12. WE NEED TO END THE CYCLE OF COURT CORRUPTION BY FOLLOWING GENE WZOREK’S FROM CHICAGO LEAD IN SCOTUS. FOR OVER 2 DECADES THE COURT SYSTEM HAS CHEATED HIM, JUST LIKE THE COURT CONTINUES TO CHEAT NEW PEOPLE EVERY DAY. PASADENA AND LOS ANGELES COURTS FRAUD PEOPLE ON A DAILY BASIS BY NOT GIVING PEOPLE THE TRUE RECORD OF COURT WHICH IS THE AUDIOTAPES!!! THE AUDIOTAPES WILL NOT MATCH THE FILES OR DOCUMENTS. NIXON GOT CAUGHT LYING BECAUSE OF THE AUDIOTAPES! IT IS TIME TO HOLD THOSE ATTORNEYS ON THE BENCH, AKA, JUDGES ACCOUNTABLE. NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT!

    • WOW!! SJI has managed to lure a bunch of squirrely losers from Pasadena LA out of the woodwork. Just as every convict in state prison proclaims his innocence, every nut job who properly loses a court case blames the judges and the clerks. Take your Xanax boys and girls and STFU.

    • I had a judge’s team tamper with the tape and delete whole sentences.

  13. Jose Castenada says:

    NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW, NOT EVEN THE PRESIDENT!

    Beg to differ, Jose. Hillary Clinton is above the law. Ask James Comey.

  14. I really need help regarding a case in Santa Clara county, Ca that goes back to 2010 and is on going. It’s a family case but, civil rights have been trampled on. This is the third judge on the case the first one was relieved of allowing perjury in the courtroom the only problem is they’re still allowing it and due process doesn’t seem to matter

  15. Nice work Jennifer. Excellent writing and reporting on an important topic. Look into the expansive coverup going on in Contra Costa County family court. Contact me for more information on the fraud, perjury by court officials, and blatant bias by pseudo neutral experts that make this ghetto kangaroo court a stacked deck.

  16. Thank you for looking into this but, please continue because it hasn’t stopped. People that represent themselves are getting the the short end of the stick. I’ve seen people in the court room where the judge stated let it be known Mrs x is here but Mr x isn’t. The only problem is Mr x was there. It’s mistakes like this and a total disregard that has an impact on people’s lives. There are many other issues going on in the Santa Clara,Ca court rooms like having no court reporter in court so there’s no record of the court proceedings and many other issues.

    • It is not a mistake, it is an intentional knowingly and willingly fraud upon the court as there are many tactics that are used against the people. Compare the legal pleadings, with court reporter transcripts, with court minutes. If they do no match, then you have proved fraud upon the court. if that does not work demand the audiotapes of the proceedings. all courts have those audiotapes. look up judge Posner from the 7th Cir court regarding the audiotapes in Rule 11 e.