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Corruption Chronicles

Judge Runs Personal Business Out Of Courtroom

It took two years but California’s Commission on Judicial Performance finally reprimanded a judge for running a real estate business out of his courtroom, using official court letterhead to intimidate tenants and court personnel such as his bailiff to collect rents.

In a lengthy letter to Orange County Superior Court Judge John Watson, the state commission, which investigates complaints of judicial misconduct, said, “Judge Watson’s use of court staff, court resources and the court facilities for his personal real estate business was improper.” It also points out that a judge may not use his or her office, staff, or public property and/or resources under the judge’s control for personal, non-governmental purposes.

The state commission first learned of the misconduct in 2004 when tenants of one of Judge Watson’s many properties complained that he used his judicial clout to bully them, court stationary to communicate with them and his clerk to intimidate them. Judge Watson has always maintained that no rules were broken and appeared confident that he would beat any action by the commission. Not surprisingly, he has refused to comment on the commission’s public reprimand.


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