Legal Ethics

Calif. Judge Admonished for Klan Reference He Considered a Joke

A Los Angeles County judge was speaking to lawyers in an off-the-record session last summer when he made what he considered a joking remark that has now landed him in trouble with the California’s judicial conduct agency.

Judge Harvey Giss was admonished on Wednesday for the comment, an “offensive and inappropriate” reference to the Ku Klux Klan, according to a press release (PDF) from the Commission on Judicial Performance. The Los Angeles Times and CNS have stories.

Giss was discussing a plea agreement with lawyers at the time. The only thing that would make the defendants agree to a plea, Giss said, was for the judge to “come out in a white sheet and a pointy white hat.” A family member of the defendant was in the courtroom at the time.

Defense lawyers sought Giss’ recusal two days later. He acknowledged then that it was a bad statement, but complained that “people don’t have a sense of humor any more.”

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