SAN DIEGO – Other than being removed from the bench, the highest level of discipline for a magistrate is severe public censure.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep has been condemned of censure for 29 acts of judicial misconduct, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
It’s been almost a year since the formal notice of the censure was filed in October 2016 for the 29 acts including hostile conduct against the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, judicial campaign misconduct, inapt and bias courtroom comments, engaging in an indecorous ex parte communiqué and soliciting legal opinions from non-counsel.
“The commission noted that in general, Kreep admitted that he ran his courtroom too casually and that many of his comments could be perceived as improper and demonstrating a lack of decorum and bias,” according to the Aug. 17 news release.
Kreep was also condemned for making inappropriate comments to an African-American court employee, as well as Caroline Song, who said she was often offended by Kreep’s comments about her Chinese ethnicity.
“By way of example, Song mentioned a time when Kreep introduced visitors from Korea," according to the news release. "The judge told the visitors Song was from China and spoke Mandarin. Song is not from China.”
Three special masters appointed by the California Supreme Court conducted an eight-day evidentiary hearing in February, filed a report in April and heard argument in June. Also among the acts was misconduct during his own judicial campaign, when the judge violated the cannon by publicly denouncing former President Barack Obama during his re-election campaign in 2012, the same time that Kreep was seeking his own seat on the bench.
“A candidate for judicial office must know and strictly adhere to all applicable election laws and shall not knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth misrepresent any fact about himself or herself,” the order noted. However, while chastised for his conduct, Kreep has kept all rules since he was condemned.
“The masters also found in mitigation that Kreep was hard-working and had helped reduce the backlog on default matters at the superior court," the commission news release said. "Further, the judge has participated in continuing education, and extracurricular court and community activities and committees. When specific improper conduct was brought to his attention, such as the use of nicknames for attorneys, commenting on the physical appearance of attorneys and asking attorneys in the courtroom for advice, the conduct ceased.”
But in the end, bad behavior is just that, according to the order that cites Geiler v. Commission on Judicial Qualifications (1973) before charging Kreep with 29 acts.
“We concur with the masters’ legal conclusion that Kreep acted in bad faith and engaged in willful misconduct." the order noted. "A judge engages in bad faith when the judge performs a judicial act for a corrupt purpose, which is any purpose other than the faithful discharge of judicial duty.”