SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A long-serving and well-respected Orange County Superior Court judge was ordered removed from the bench Wednesday for fixing traffic tickets of family and friends.
The Commission on Judicial Performance found that Richard W. Stanford Jr. intervened on nine separate occasions between 2005 and 2010 to allow acquaintances to pay greatly reduced traffic fines without having to appear in court. The San Francisco-based commission, which disciplines state judges for ethical lapses, said Stanford's removal is necessary to "restore public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
Stanford's attorney said he would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Stanford admitted giving preferential treatment and apologized, but he denied any malicious intent. He told the commission he didn't realize his actions were wrong at the time.
A clerk uncomfortable with Stanford's handling of a case in 2010 led to the commission investigation. In that case, Stanford ordered his son-in-law's nearly $500 ticket for running a red light in 2010 be reduced to $40.
He was also found to have taken similar actions with two traffic tickets his church pastor received, and to have handled his elderly neighbor's traffic ticket similarly.
The 10 members of the commission, who voted unanimously on the matter, said they didn't believe a 26-year veteran of the judiciary failed to appreciate that his actions were wrong.
We simply do not believe that Judge Stanford failed to recognize the impropriety of using the power of his judicial office to help his son-in-law and his friends," commission chair Judith McConnell wrote for the panel.
McConnell said the commission was taking its action despite Stanford's stellar reputation on and off the bench. His colleagues in Orange County said that Stanford was a hard-working jurist known to rule "by the book." McConnell also noted that Stanford volunteers five days a week at his church's homeless shelter, where he serves as the facilities administrator, and that he and his wife spend a week's vacation each year volunteering at a camp for foster-care children.
"Unfortunately, Judge Stanford used his judicial power in a manner that gravely tarnished the integrity of the judicial system," McConnell concluded.