Alameda County Superior Court commissioner charged with misconduct allegations

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Charged with various allegations of misconduct Oct. 17, an Alameda County Superior Court commissioner could potentially be removed from his position at an upcoming hearing.

On Oct. 17, the State of California Commission on Judicial Performance — which is responsible for investigating complaints against judges in California and dealing out the subsequent discipline — filed a notice of formal proceedings detailing 10 counts of charges made against Commissioner Taylor Culver. Culver’s attorneys Arthur J. Harris and James Murphy submitted a formal response to these allegations Thursday.

Culver has been charged by the commission for misconduct ranging from impatient actions and unfair bias judgments to failing to inform defendants of their rights and denying community service in place of fines.

“Commissioner Taylor Culver believes that the Commission on Judicial Performance has unnecessarily singled him out,” stated the official response to the proceedings. “It is engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation for the obvious purpose of making his professional life so difficult and miserable.”

The commission’s notice of formal proceedings cited several cases with patterns of impatience and sarcastic responses, describing his actions as having a “lack of patience, dignity, and courtesy” and “reflected embroilment.” The report also stated that Culver made sarcastic remarks that could be interpreted as biased and suggestive of a demonstration of prejudgment.

In addition to these allegations, the commission also claimed that the preliminary investigation indicated abuses of authority by implying threats to put defendants in jail and denying defendants’ pleas to do community service instead of paying fines, even when they did not have the ability to pay the fines. The commission also stated Culver failed to properly arraign defendants in a few cases.

Culver is also accused of making comments of a sexual nature to his female clerks and court staff during an earthquake Oct. 20, 2011. The commission’s report stated he made comments to the effect that if the earthquake might kill him, he would “make sure (the clerks) went out happy.”

The date for the hearing has yet to be confirmed but is usually conducted within two to four months of when charges were filed, according to Victoria Henley, the California Commission on Judicial Performance’s director-chief counsel. To oversee the case, the Alameda County Supreme Court is appointing three special masters from a group of 40 disciplinary case justices and judges, according to Henley.

The consequences for the charges placed on Culver range from a warning advisory letter to a declaration that Culver should no longer serve as a state judicial officer and be removed from office, according to Henley.

Henley said that during the hearing, an examiner for the commission and Culver’s attorneys will present and examine evidence. She added that the special masters will then provide the commission a report about the hearing.

After the hearing, Henley said, the commission will ultimately decide Culver’s punishment.

Contact Gibson Chu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.