Various websites are noting that "Judge Judy" a faux-small law court "reality" show has surpassed Oprah in the ratings. The "Judge" on Judge Judy makes beau coup bucks (millions), for her really obnoxious and disrespectful take on "judging." Now a wanna-be "Judge Judy" has been revealed to have turned her courtroom into an audition studio. The extended account from Greg Moran at the San Diego Union-Tribune is pretty surprising:
The 21-page complaint the Commission on Judicial Performance has brought against San Diego Superior Court Judge DeAnn M. Salcido itemizes more than three dozen instances of what it contends is a “pattern of misconduct” and abuse of authority. At times, Salcido led the court’s audience in chanting slogans and regularly mocked a defense attorney who appeared before her, according to the commission, which is charged with disciplining judges.
The allegations span from January 2009 to March of this year, though many of them concern a single day — May 1, 2009 — when she used her El Cajon courtroom to film an audition for a “Judge Judy”-type reality television program. She arranged for a television production crew to film her in session for the possible reality show, going so far as to arrange her calendar to 'line up' the most interesting cases for that day, the commission says.
The commission, which filed its complaint last week, has given Salcido 20 days to respond to the allegations in writing. A public hearing on the case, with testimony and witnesses, could be held in the coming months. She ultimately could be removed from office. In her only public comments so far, Salcido released a statement on Thursday saying that her 'style' on the bench is different, employing humor and 'tough love' on those who come before her. She also offered a hint of what may be part of her defense.
'I believe the time is now ripe for our judicial system to begin examining whether the traditional demeanor and approach of the judiciary is the best means for accomplishing justice, particularly in a rapidly changing world with a culturally diverse population,' Salcido said.
The commission’s complaint lists 17 times when Salcido’s conduct and comments crossed into misconduct on the day of the audition taping. They include:
• When a lawyer asked for a moment to consult with his client, Salcido asked the audience, Does he need to call the lifeline? Try to tell him let’s make a deal. I think he needs to call the lifeline. Yeah. Want to poll the audience? What should he do? Take the deal, take the deal, take the deal.' 'The lawyer then said his client was opting to enroll in a court probation program instead of going to jail for 60 days, because he was the only person who could take care of his 75-year-old ailing mother. 'Then God help her,' Salcido said.
• A defendant with mental health problems had been hearing voices. 'Okay. And we talked, right?' Salcido said, according to the complaint. 'You’re going to tell me if they say, ‘hurt the judge, hurt the judge.’
• On two occasions, she asked the audience to repeat in unison a slogan — 'Do or do not, there is no try' — when defendants were speaking to her. The phrase is posted in her courtroom.
• Salcido asked the audience to chant 'woo, woo' during the videotaping. They obliged.
The complaint also gives examples from other days of Salcido’s courtroom commentary, including:
• Three times she made disparaging remarks about Deputy Public Defender Richard Longman. She called him 'the slowest public defender we have in the courthouse.' Salcido told the father of one client, He’s named Mr. Longman' for a reason.'
The complaint says that Salcido’s negative comments about Longman 'created the appearance' of discouraging a defendant’s legal right to consult with a lawyer. Longman was out of the office Monday and not available for comment. Chief Deputy Public Defender Randy Mize declined to speak about Salcido’s comment regarding Longman because it is part of the pending case before judicial commission. 'We were aware of it,' Mize said.
• A defendant came to court wearing an Oakland Raiders jersey. Salcido, an avid Chargers fan, asked him which door he wanted to use to leave. The choices were the 'Chargers door,' used by the public to enter and exit the court, or the 'Raiders door,' which is where people sentenced to jail leave the courtroom. Salcido asked a woman in the courtroom who was with the man if she thought he was 'smart' coming to her court in a Raiders jersey. 'No?' Salcido said. 'What does that say about you … and the kind of men you pick?
• When a defendant accidentally called her 'sir,' Salcido pushed herself away from the bench while still in her chair and said, 'Do these look like the clothes of a sir?” She then raised her leg above the bench, held her leg by the ankle, and said, 'Do these look like the boots of a sir?'
• She ripped up a letter from a doctor that was provided by a lawyer for a woman who could not make her court date because she was pregnant, out of state and not allowed to fly.
• Salcido had a woman taken into custody for a brief period of time for contempt of court, ordering deputies to put her in the court holding tank because she believed the woman was being disrespectful, without first holding a hearing as required.
Mario Conte, a law professor at California Western School of Law and a former defense lawyer, said that some judges can be eccentric and irreverent, and each judge runs a courtroom in a different way. 'At times a good sense of humor to liven things up and relax things can be a wonderful thing for a judge to have,' he said, especially in high-volume courtrooms with full daily calendars. But the jokes can’t be made at the expense of clients or lawyers, Conte said. 'You have to treat people with respect, he said. 'You can’t use them as a prop for humor.''
He would not say if Salcido had overstepped the bounds because the case is pending and he had not read her side of the events. But he was troubled by the allegations. If a judge is doing certain things in order to get on a TV program, I think that is objectionable,' Conte said. If the allegations are found to be true after the commission’s hearing, Salcido faces a spectrum of punishment — from formal admonishment to public censure to removal from office.
I once dated a young woman who said she was "brutally honest" when in fact she was just "brutal." Likewise I hear people talk about "tough love," but forget the "love" part.
Judges and courtrooms are dramatic enough without this sort of thing. Judge Salcido needs "treatment" not "the treatment."