Judge, Admonished for Discourteous Remarks, Resigns

Thursday, November 6, 2008
Andrew Galvin
Orange County Register

An Orange County judge who was admonished today for making discourteous remarks in court has resigned from the bench.

Judge John M. Watson submitted his letter of resignation Oct. 22, said Carole Levitsky, a court spokeswoman.

Today, California's Commission on Judicial Review admonished Watson for the third time for misbehavior. In its ruling, the commission said Watson "failed to be patient, dignified and courteous with the parties and lawyers" in a two-day trial in 2006.

The case involved two neighbors, one of whom was seeking a restraining order against the other. According to the commission's ruling, Watson several times told the attorneys in the case that he was irritated at having to hear it and suggested that the parties settle.

"I don't feel like spending the afternoon listening to it," he said, according to the ruling. "I probably will. When you two guys look me in the eye at the rates you are charging and say, 'We object to your ordering both parties to act with good manners and leave here,' that that won't work for you.''

Later, he said: "I am irritated at this. I do not think this is good sense or good use of these resources that I govern. We have people that have real problems. People that get killed."

The commission's ruling also said that Watson had failed to disclose that he had been a defendant in a landlord-tenant case shortly before hearing a case involving landlords and tenants.

In February 2006, Watson was publicly admonished for using his courtroom clerk to help with secretarial tasks involved in the day-to-day management of two rental properties he owned, and for using court resources and court facilities for his personal real estate business, the commission said.

In October 2006, Watson was privately admonished for an e-mail sent to other judges that was perceived as biased or prejudiced, the commission said.

In 2004, he received an advisory letter "expressing the commission's strong disapproval of conduct that included sarcastic, demeaning, and disparaging remarks and displaying impatience toward attorneys," the commission said.

Watson didn't oppose the public admonishment that was issued today, the commission said. His resignation and his agreement not to seek or accept judicial office again "adequately protects the public," the commission said.

Watson, who sat in the Westminster branch of Orange County Superior Court, couldn't be reached for comment. A voice mail left at his office wasn't immediately returned.

Watson's resignation is effective March 24, 2009, Levitsky said. Until then, he will be on leave.

Watson was appointed to the bench on Dec. 6, 1990, by Gov. George Deukmejian, Levitsky said.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Help build power for renters' rights:

Sign up for alerts