JUNE 27, 2008
A California Superior Court judge has the distinct honor of being the first in her county to ever be removed from the bench for misconduct by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance.
The Orange County Superior Court judge (Kelly MacEachern), a former county prosecutor, filed false and misleading expense claims for a legal conference in San Diego and then lied under oath when questioned about them.
In a scathing 7-3 ruling made public this week, the California judicial commission said Judge MacEachern engaged in willful misconduct when she misrepresented her attendance at a continuing judicial studies program in 2006. The commission based its decision on the results of a thorough investigation conducted by three masters appointed by the state Supreme Court.
The commission writes that “the lack of integrity manifested by her misconduct, compounded by her lack of candor in response to the commission’s investigation and deceitful testimony under oath before the masters compels our conclusion that removal is necessary to protect the public and maintain public trust in the integrity of the judiciary."
MacEachern is only the 24th judge removed from the bench in California since 1960 and, as previously mentioned, the first in sprawling Orange County. She was a former prosecutor in Orange County and nearby Long Beach before being elected to serve on the bench in 2003.
In 2006 the judge tried enrolling in a pair of classes at a weeklong judicial conference in San Diego but was denied a spot because the courses required judges to have at least eight years of bench experience. She did, however, qualify for a one-day class and was told the state would pay for her hotel stay.
MacEachern still submitted a request for education leave for the entire week and stayed at the hotel for three nights that did not qualify for reimbursement. Regardless, the judge submitted a travel claim to the county Superior Court seeking reimbursement for the three nights.
In its 25-page decision, the judicial commission points out that willful misconduct is the most serious basis for censure or removal of a judge because it is “unjudicial conduct that is committed in bad faith by a judge acting in his or her judicial capacity.” The panel actually called her conduct “manifestly unjudicial” because she failed to comply with her duty to uphold the integrity of the judiciary.
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