Placer Judge Busted! Again!

Anthony Pignataro:

Today is not a good day for Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. O’Flaherty. That’s because the state Commission on Judicial Performance has once again busted him for “willful misconduct, the most serious form of judicial misconduct.” Because of his prior 2004 admonishment, the commission chose to publicly censure O’Flaherty.

In a nutshell, back in 2008 O’Flaherty (who’s been a judge for about 20 years) apparently tried to impose a restraining order on a guy who’d just lost a small claims case without going through any of the legal requirements to do such a thing, including allowing the accused to face his accuser, hear evidence, etc. You can click here to read the harsh and uncompromising Decision and Order, but I can’t resist in quoting some of the choice statements:

“Despite his prior discipline and the unanimous conclusion of three special masters that he committed willful misconduct in the present case, Judge O’Flaherty insists that his actions do not amount to misconduct. Judge O’Flaherty’s continued failure to accept the inherent obligation of a judge to adhere to the law and the limits of judicial authority convinces us that he should be publicly censured.

“Judge O’Flaherty was publicly admonished in 2004 for telling prospective jurors in two criminal trials that they could lie to get out of jury duty if they thought they might be racially biased.

“We see a disturbing similarity between the misconduct that resulted in his 2004 public admonishment and his misconduct in the present case. In both cases, Judge O’Flaherty has demonstrated a willingness to circumvent the law in favor of procedures he considers more effective.”

While a public censure isn’t disbarment — the toughest sentence the commission could hand down — but it’s still plenty serious.

Posted Sept. 23, 2010

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