Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sacramento Colleagues and Former Coworkers of Chief Justice Swept Up In Dual Court Controversy

California Supreme Court Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, Justice Ming W. Chin, Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Justice Goodwin H. Liu, Justice Mariano Florentino-Cuellar, Justice Leondra R. Kruger Supreme Court of California
Kern County Judge Cory Woodward was punished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for having an improper personal relationship with his courtroom clerk. Sacramento County Judge Matthew Gary reportedly has had a similar relationship with his courtroom clerk, Christina Arcuri, for at least four years. 

"[I]t is time for this charade to end," from the letter to Judge Kevin Culhane.

Sacramento Family Court Corruption, a Facebook watchdog group with over 600 followers, has issued an open letter to Sacramento County Presiding Judge Kevin Culhane regarding an alleged improper relationship between a Sacramento Superior Court judge and his courtroom clerk.

The whistleblower group alleges that Judge Matthew Gary has been in a consensual, personal relationship with his clerk, Christina Arcuri for more than five years. Both Gary and Arcuri also have been involved in a number of controversies involving the alleged mistreatment of indigent, disabled, and financially disadvantaged family court parties who are self-represented.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye worked with both Gary and Arcuri during the latter portion of her tenure on the Sacramento County bench from 1990-2005. 

In the letter to Culhane, the group invoked California Code of Judicial Ethics canon 3D(1), which requires a judge to take "corrective action" if they become aware of misconduct by another judge. In addition, as the designated presiding judge, Culhane is responsible for the supervision of all other judges, according to California Rules of Court rule 10.603.

The group contends that the alleged Gary-Arcuri relationship is similar to the judge-clerk relationship of Kern County Judge Cory Woodward and his clerk. In 2014, Woodward was punished by the state Commission on Judicial Performance because a judge is not allowed to be in a supervisory role over someone with whom the judge has a personal relationship, among other charges. The Woodward CJP decision is embedded at the end of this post.

3rd District Justice Cole Blease Dismisses Appeal Alleging Egregious Trial Court Misconduct by Gary

Justice Louis Mauro, Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch, Justice Jonathan K. Renner Third Appellate Court District Sacramento California Justice Cole Blease 3rd District Court of Appeal Sacramento Justice Vance Raye, Justice Ronald B. Robie, Justice William Murray Jr., Justice George Nicholson, Justice M. Kathleen Butz, Justice Elena J. Duarte, Justice Harry E. Hull Jr.,

As we reported in December, the controversial Third District Court of Appeal deliberately delayed for more than three years an appeal involving allegations of egregious misconduct by Gary, according to court watchdogs. 
"This case represents one of the most unsettling examples we've seen of what we believe is cronyism between the Third District and Sacramento Superior Court," said Ulf Carlsson of the Family Court Accountability Coalition, a court watchdog organization."The trial court judge has personal connections in the appellate court, and the 3rd District is delaying this case in the hopes that the publicity will die down and the issues raised will become moot."
As Carlsson predicted, one of several issues raised in the family court appeal arguably became moot when the daughter of the appellant turned 18-years-old. Ignoring several non-moot issues in the appeal, and legal principles and decisional law that allow for resolution of moot appeals involving issues of public interest, in March Justice Cole Blease used the birthday as an excuse to dismiss the entire appeal. The multiple allegations of misconduct against Gary were effectively swept under the rug.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye maintains a personal and professional relationship with Blease and the other veteran justices at the 3rd District, where she served as an associate justice from 2005-2010. Prior to their court of appeal promotions, several justices also worked with Cantil-Sakauye at Sacramento Superior Court. 

The open letter to Culhane, with edits for clarity, is reprinted below:     

Dear Judge Culhane,
This letter shall serve as notification pursuant to canon 3D(1) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics regarding misconduct by a judge under your supervision.
As you may know, canon 3D(1) mandates that you take or initiate appropriate corrective action when you are notified that another judge has violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Ethics. Your duty under this provision in not discretionary.
It is common knowledge among many court employees, attorneys, and even some public court users that Judge Matthew Gary is engaged in an improper personal relationship with his court clerk, Christina Arcuri.
As set forth in the 2014 Commission on Judicial Performance decision and order imposing discipline on Kern County Judge Cory Woodward, a consensual judge-clerk relationship violates several provisions of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
The Woodward case is in many respects identical to the situation with Judge Gary. Among other authority, the Woodward disciplinary decision cites the California Judicial Conduct Handbook, by Judge David Rothman.
"Judge Rothman states that 'it is fundamental that a judge not be placed in a supervisory role over someone with whom the judge has a close personal relationship,'" according to the Woodward decision. For your convenience, the Woodward CJP decision is attached. 
It is also common knowledge among coworkers that this improper relationship has been going on for at least four years, and caused or contributed to the judges' divorce in or about 2011-2012.
At least two presiding judges before you, Laurie Earl and Robert Hight, turned a blind eye to this matter, and it is time for this charade to end.
This is very serious matter implicating the integrity of the court. If you do not take corrective action, you will be in violation of canon 3D(1) and will be reported to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and please advise as to what corrective action will be taken.

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