LOS ANGELES — Marc A. Garcia, a Merced County Superior Court judge, was recently suspended by the State Bar Court of California “for a minimum of two years and until he shows proof of his rehabilitation.”
The Feb. 4 ruling stems from Garcia’s alleged failure to disclose his finances between 2007 and 2013 when he served as county judge.
In 1999, Garcia was hired by Merced firm Morse and Pfieff and later became a partner in 2001. The firm later disbanded and Garcia became part of Merced Defense Associates (MDA), which was formed in the aftermath of the firm’s dissolution in 2004. MDA was contracted by the county to represent 20 percent of the criminally indigent defendants in the county.
Upon Garcia’s judicial appointment in October 2007, two agreements were made between Garcia and the other owners of MDA, Morse and Pfieff. The first stated Garcia would no longer be a partner in the firm. The second outlined a $250,000 payout to Garcia that would be divided into monthly installments of $4,516 and deposited into a “blind trust account.”
The blind trust was set up to avoid disqualification of his judiciary abilities, but when Garcia realized it would not he requested the checks be delivered to him directly. The $250,000 was paid to Garcia between January 2008 and August 2012.
In 2009 Garcia was assigned to preside over criminal proceedings, many of which Pfieff appeared as attorney for the defendant. Garcia allegedly failed to disclose that he was still in business with Pfieff and was receiving compensation from his former firm. He did not recuse himself from any of the court cases that Pfieff appeared in. Garcia filed financial paperworks with the courts that did not list his monthly pay from MDA.
Garcia will serve his two-year suspension followed by three years' probation. If he does not comply with the terms of his suspension order, he faces an additional three-year suspension.
Garcia was admitted to the California State Bar in 1995 after graduating from San Francisco Law School. He had no prior record of discipline.