Chief Justice George Violates California Code of Judicial Ethics
2-1-2010 12:24 am
[As you read this, please note that the Hillary Clinton Campaign has acknowledged to Chief Justice George's attorney that he appears on their campaign reports in error. So my story was based on inaccurate information on the FEC website, and my accusation was, as it turns out, unfounded. See more here - Flash]
Back in 1977, when I was ten years old, you were "cool" if you were listening to an awesome new song by The Eagles -- Hotel California. You were "un-cool" if you were "jive dancing" to Andy Gibb. Star Wars debuted that year, and Elvis Presley moved on to Graceland in the sky. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown was Governor of California, and that was the year that he appointed Deputy District Attorney Ron George to be a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
For 33 years now George has served on the bench, twice getting "promoted" by Republican Governors. In 1987 then Governor George Deukmejian appointed George to the Court of Appeal and in 1991 then Governor Wilson appointed George to fill a vacancy on the California Supreme Court. Five years later Wilson tapped George to serve as Chief Justice of the Court, a position he has held now for nearly 14 years.
Chief Justice George is a registered Republican, but beyond registering in a political party, the California Code of Judicial Ethics, which is ironically adopted by the California Supreme Court, lays down a lot of limits on those sitting on the bench at any level engaging in partisan activity.
When I typed the name of Ron George into the Federal Elections Commission website recently to see if George had any history of contributing to candidates for office, I discovered something that blew me away.
Since 2002, the Chief Justice has made exactly seven contributions to federal candidates for partisan office. All seven were made in one year -- 2008. All seven were made to one candidate for the Presidency -- Hillary Clinton!
First and foremost, I was dismayed to see that George -- who is often characterized by the media as a "moderate Republican" -- would contribute towards the election of a candidate who articulated such radical views in terms of expanding the size and scope of the federal government beyond its already bloated status.
But the more I thought about it, I compared George's political giving to Clinton, which aggregated to $2,300, to the position of some local judges that I know, who say that they cannot give much to partisan candidates, and preferred not to give anything at all due to the non-partisan nature of their offices. One of them told me that there was an official Code of Judicial Ethics to guide those wearing the "robes of power" in such matters, and he sent me a link.
So I looked it up and sure enough, it could not be more clear in Canon 5, Section A, Paragraph 3...
A Judge or Judicial Candidate Shall Refrain from Inappropriate
A. Political Organizations
Judges and candidates* for judicial office shall not
(3) personally solicit funds for a political organization or nonjudicial candidate; make contributions to a political party or political organization or to a nonjudicial candidate in excess of five hundred dollars in any calendar year per political party or political organization or candidate, or in excess of an aggregate of one thousand dollars in any calendar year for all political parties or political organizations or nonjudicial candidates.
I was a political science major in college, so my degree is not in mathematics. But even I can figure out that George's $2,300 for Hillary Clinton exceeds the allowable ethical limit by over four times.
Now I am not an expert in this "Code" and whether there are consequences for violations of it -- nor do I know if the Supreme Court exempts themselves from these standards they adopt for all judges, or if they are supposed to live by its rules as well.
It seems to me that Ron George owes a public explanation for such an egregious violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Especially given that the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court should be setting an example for all of our state's judges to follow.
In the meantime, if I am Pete Wilson or George Deukmejian, I might be particularly embarrassed that my appointee was so committed to trying to elect a liberal to be President of the United States.
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