New Judge in Google Lawsuit Has Close Ties with San Jose Mayor

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit over San Jose’s secret negotiations with Google are questioning the impartiality of a new judge assigned to the case.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal, who’s set to preside over Monday’s hearing in a suit filed by the First Amendment Coalition and Working Partnerships, is a longtime family friend of Mayor Sam Liccardo.

In 2016, the jurist’s niece Elizabeth Bernal, worked as a council assistant in the mayor’s office. In a Facebook post that year, Liccardo referred to Bernal as “my good friend Judge Paul Bernal.” In 2013, Bernal’s wife, Mary Bernal, donated $250 to support Liccardo’s mayoral campaign. That same year, the Bernal family attended Liccardo’s wedding.

And the whole reason Bernal decided to pursue a career in law? Because the mayor’s dad pretty much talked him into it.

According to a 2004 profile on Law.com, the judge “considered journalism but decided to pursue law—in part because a family friend and lawyer, Salvador Liccardo, let him read legal briefs during vacations.”

Bernal, an eighth-generation Bay Area resident, graduated in 1987 from the Santa Clara University School of Law before going on to work for the firm Littler Mendelson in San Jose as an employment law specialist through 1989. He spent the next 11 years as a prosecutor for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office—where Liccardo would later work for a few years before his election to the City Council in 2006. In 2000, Gov. Gray Davis appointed Bernal to a vacant seat on the bench.

Liccardo declined to discuss the matter. Santa Clara County court spokesman Benjamin Rada said Bernal would be unavailable for comment.

“Judges are bound by the Canons of the California Code of Judicial Ethics, and cannot comment on any proceeding pending before any court,” he said. “​Trial assignments are made from the weekly master trial calendar to the trial judges who are available. A judge has the duty to decide any proceeding in which he or she is not disqualified.”

It’s not unusual for judges and attorneys to know each other outside the courtroom, and a jurist’s friendship with a party to a case isn’t necessarily cause for recusal. But the many links between Liccardo and Bernal raise questions about the objectivity of the new judge.

For a case defined by concerns about transparency, sources familiar with the lawsuit say the apparent conflicts are especially troubling.

The lawsuit filed last fall by First Amendment Coalition and Working Partnerships accuses several San Jose officials of signing non-disclosure agreements with Google without the legal authority to do so.

Nearly 20 city official signed agreements with Google in 2017 in regards to plans for its downtown mega-campus. The case also alleges that the city refused to hand over all responsive documents to California Public Records Act requests and cited legally dubious exemptions in denying the information.

David Snyder, the executive director for the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition, says that Liccardo is a central part of the lawsuit.

“As far as I know, we have zero or at least very little of communications for Sam Liccardo and I find it very difficult to believe that there are no text messages,”  Snyder said. “In order to find out what happened behind closed door, the people of San Jose must have access to what Google was saying to Sam Liccardo.”

And with Liccardo and his family having so many connections to Bernal, Snyder said it “suggests objectivity may be a problem.”

Court records show that the case has been passed off to a few different judges over the past several months, getting handed off a couple times between Mary Arand and Helen Williams before Bernal took it over this week.

The plaintiffs were alerted of the judge change on Thursday evening—just days before Monday’s hearing. Snyder said that the change in jurists also sets the lawsuit back.

Now, Bernal wants to ask both parties additional questions instead of getting into the “meat and bones” of the case, Snyder added.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this point and the longer we have to wait for a hearing on the merits, the longer the residents of San Jose have to go without the full public information they’re entitled to about the negotiations,” he said.

“Access delayed is access denied.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

19 Comments

  1. Insiders know just how close Liccardo and the Bernal clan are tied, although hopefully the public information outlined in this article will raise some alarm bells. It is unreasonable for Judge Bernal to believe that he can adjudicate this matter without at least creating the appearance of impropriety. Although it appears that his reflex is to stay on this case, I am hopeful that further scrutiny will lead him to pass this case on to someone else.

  2. This is a clear conflict of interest ethical issue. Bernal’s objectivity does not exist. Medical doctors and pdychologists cannot be a friend and provider at the same time. Bernal sounds more like Liccardo’s brother. This type of corruption is very common in Santa Clara County where the elites are just a big corruption web. Recall Liccardo!

  3. There it is again, Nepotism and Incest seem to run in the blood south bay Democrats and they would never recuse them
    selves from helping La Family. Someone should check them to see if they all have webbed feet .

  4. Incestual Politics at its finest, put it to the test

    San Jose, Santa Clara….name the city and it seems to be the same pool of elected officials that are all in bed with each other in some way or form.

  5. The good ole “All Boys Club” from Bellarmine….. These entitled little brats think they can get away with this type of out right corruption. My brother was a couple of classes below Liccardo at Bellarmine and he does some of the same shady stuff like Stinky Sam. They think they are above the law….

    It’s time for the Public to speak up about this bad behavior and send that message to the Bench that Google does not get a FREE PASS while sitting in Sam Liccardo’s pocket.

    This is just all BAD folks that this is even happening. I always though that Goggle would start getting special treatment in our courts but they could have been a little more slick about it.

    This Corrupt Santa Clara County Judge should have recused himself immediately. The Presiding Judge of Santa Clara County should have also put a stop to it….. and most of all Liccardo and his Shady City Attorneys offices should have done the right thing…. These politicians never recuse themselves from any deal and it’s a big problem in Santa Clara County Government. The worst in the Board of Supervisors and their back-door deals. They never do the right thing and recuse…. Well…. Supervisor Wasserman has always been good to do the right thing and raise that RED FLAG when something is unethical.

    It’s just not in their DNA…. Liccardo just does not care…. The more and more I dig into Sam Liccardo the more he just makes my blood boil. I need to put a TOP TEN reasons to Recall Sam Liccardo up on my YouTube Channel so the public can truly get the big picture.

    Just a couple to get started….

    1,) The Great “Homeless RV” gassing of San Jose…. Thousand of RV’s and Motor-homes where stolen from the Homeless in preparation for Super Bowl 50…. And we all know after these Vehicles (Homes) where taken we added insult to injury and put these poor people on mental health holds to keep them off the street for the BIG GAME. This was done to make San Jose look like there was “NO” Homeless Problems or a Mental Health Disaster going on. This opened the flood gates to the world stage to start purchasing down town “Condos” at a high price and really started this construction boom…. And yes folks…. Ole “Sam” made big bucks on his “UN Disclosed” condo down near the Google Footprint…. Now that’s low…

    2.) Non Disclosure Agreement with Google. Yep…. That one speaks for itself…. Leave the public out of the negotiations….

    3.) The Great Flood…. Another well thought out plan to “Kill Two Birds with One Stone” Lets evacuate the people living in homes but let the Homeless wash away down the river. Good Plan Sam!! The Devil has a nice recliner in Hell waiting for you… Between Hitler and Stalin…

    3.) Sam likes to sue Activist (Like Myself) in Civil Court to silence their First Amendment Rights. (When they can’t get you on a Muni Code then it’s Penal Code time (Call up DA Frozen Rosen)…. Then when all else fails hit em with a Civil Lawsuit with one of Sam’s Judges (Family Friend) that in his pocket to really silence that member of the public. Could you imagine losing everything you own (Including your Fathers Ashes) in your motor home (Impounded by SJPD) never to be seen again then having the city file lawsuits to prevent exposing their dirty deeds. Please also note that the City has a whole gang of Lawyers and I am Pro Per (Self Represented and Poor cause the City took all my Stuff)
    Thanks Sam!!!

    4.) The Great Republican Beat Down…. Sam and Eddie just let those poor people get beat just for not having the same political views as the current leaders in power. No matter what political party you belong to you should always be protected by your local government and this includes the police. I seem to remember our Mayor blamed the president for his little set up… We know the truth…

    This is common under the Failed Leadership of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and he is A ok with the system being rigged. And his little Puppet….Police Chief “Fast Eddie” Garcia likes to participate in silencing the public.

  6. > Nepotism and Incest seem to run in the blood south bay Democrats . . . .

    Not just “south bay Democrats”. ALL California Democrats:

    https://calmatters.org/commentary/gavin-newsoms-keeping-it-all-in-the-family/

    “Gavin Newsom’s keeping it all in the family”

    “Moreover, Newsom is succeeding someone who could be considered his quasi-uncle, since his inauguration continues the decades-long saga of four San Francisco families intertwined by blood, by marriage, by money, by culture and, of course, by politics – the Browns, the Newsoms, the Pelosis and the Gettys.”

    Would any of us be surprised to discover “familial connections” between the Pelosis and the Newsoms and the Gettys, and the Liccardos and the Bernals?

  7. Well, I do think Kansen Chu is honest and seems to have universal suppprt. Latest funding report has Kansen holding 179K. Carrasco, has 3 grand from the Laborers, and a Happy Meal.

  8. Why would a case involving the mayor of San José be heard in ANY courtroom in Santa Clara County?

    At some level, all the judges here will have biases and conflicts affecting the outcome of this case. No wonder the other two judges first considered flicked the case away as if a fly on a fudge bar in June.

    Change the venue!

  9. I totally agree Randal. The judges of this county go to the same social places and events Liccardo attends. It is the same social circle and official power. A change of venue is a must.

  10. I was sitting here thinking…. Why not?? Recalling Sam Liccardo might just be the ticket?? This could send that message to the entire City that the residence will no longer tolerate what San Jose is becoming (Methville) This will also send that message to the rest of the council that the fruit does not fall far from the tree and they could be next. They should be next….

    San Jose government is a Joke and needs some drastic changes to happen soon.
    I see a lot of posts with people that are Fed up with Liccardo so let’s make it happen….

    I have a folder on my Desk Top of all the shady stuff this guy is pulling off and I am puzzled how he gets away with this. Everyday something else comes to the surface just like this article with his family friend (Superior Court Judge) presiding over this Google case. Its like he is slapping San Jose (Santa Clara County) in the face and laughing.

    He is a typical elite “Tool” that thinks because he has Google in his back pocket that no one else matters.

    This Mayor can not even clean up his own front yard at City Hall in San Jose. People openly smoke meth, deal drugs, defecate on the street, scream, yell, fight, litter, pass out, etc. and “Stinky” Sam just walks right past these people (walks over them) to get a sandwich across the street for lunch. The hardest part is when the kids walk by in groups and have see this in our city.

    The Mayor, the Council, the Upper Brass of SJPD just do not take this stuff seriously. They are more concerned about posting garbage on Social Medial and attending their latest Photo Op…. I have been tracking their attendance to Committees and Commissions…. Wow folks!!…. They are no shows to most of this stuff and it’s a big factor why our city (County) is turning into a third world country.

    A powerful example = Deputy Chief Shawny Williams of the San Jose Police Department was a no show for almost two years to the Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Committee for our County. This Deputy Chief was a voting member and just didn’t think he needed to show up. Chief Garcia rarely made it and that was also the case with Councilman Raul Peralez…. You wonder why downtown looks like an episode of the Walking Dead…. In the private sector these people would be fired, and if we had a competent mayor, he would have had these “Failures” kick rocks from the department years ago.

    I have started talking to all the Business owners and they are feed up with this disaster. From first hand feedback they are planning on doing what Home Depot did in Oakland (Put pressure on the City to fix it or they will move out) I don’t blame them at all…. As a previous business owner, I would not want my employees exposed to this type of dangerous activity just to get to work. And just imagine when a ‘BIG Account’ comes into town to ink that deal and gets pretty much scared away from doing business with that company because of safety concerns.

    Sam Liccardo is a Bellarmine (Bell) that has been raised to think this behavior is OK. My brother was a couple of classes below Liccardo and the SCAMs this guy has pulled off are ridiculous. These Bellarmine folk think they get a free pass to step all over the poor and middle class in our community.

    I am willing to direct all my energy and resources into a Recall Campaign if the right team is put together. I am also willing to go door to door to as many residences as we can to rally support. This will also be the case with any and all businesses in the city of San Jose. We also need to find a replacement that can be groomed to take over since Sam is asleep at the Helm.

    In a previous life I was the President / CEO of an electronic distribution company and my background could be very beneficial to this cause. I also have connections in the business community that could rally the appropriate financial backing to gain steam fast to get Sam out.

    Public Comment is also a great platform to rally public support and I would also be willing to shift the focus on the Biggest Failure in San Jose…. Mayor “Stinky” Sam Liccardo…

    Recall “Stinky” Sam

  11. Video from the Re Entry Network….. with “No Shows” and “Minimal Attendance” from important players, like San Jose Deputy Chief Shawny Williams, this committee has missed the mark and focused on Booze…. not Meth…

    We need everyone at the table to tackle issues like this in our City (County) before it is too late.

    If you are sick and tired of what is happening to our City start showing up to meetings and voice your opinion. Your feedback is super important and you matter.

    They Smoke Meth like Cigarettes….It’s so hard to smell that when I’m just getting off the light rail going to Family Court. For years I had to “Bob and Weave” to avoid these Meth Zombies but their numbers have multiplied big time and avoiding it is no longer an option.

    I am a clean and sober father of a 4 year old daughter that needs this mess fixed now. I use public transportation and that is my only option at the moment. My support classes, employment, visitation for my kid, family court, etc. are all infected with Meth Addicts raising hell. I have no other options and it’s not like I can move back to Los Gatos and be “Big Pimpin” it again like my previous life…. Takes time to get your life back on track and the most important part is staying clean (3.7 years)

    I think this is why we have no success stories in Santa Clara County.

    Mayor Sam Liccardo should be on top of this mess and he continues to turn a blind eye to “San Jose Dying”

    https://studio.youtube.com/video/O53hBwYtAFk/edit

  12. > New Judge in Google Lawsuit Has Close Ties with San Jose Mayor

    Well, if Liccardo has such close ties to Google and their friendly judges, how come Sam didn’t get invited to Google’s luxury summer camp in Italy?

    https://tinyurl.com/y5vq9bpe

    “A-listers flock to Google summit in private jets, mega yachts to talk climate change”

    Kinda feels like a snub for San Jose’s First Citizen and the people of San Jose.

    I don’t think Google really cares about us.

Leave a Reply