Legal Ethics

Ethics Complaint Accuses Judge of Taping Court Proceedings for TV Tryout

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A San Diego judge is accused in an ethics complaint of taping court proceedings as a courtroom TV tryout in which she made improper remarks and encouraged spectator participation.

According to the complaint (PDF), Judge DeAnn Salcido taped courtroom proceedings with the help of her bailiff’s husband and sent the video to an entertainment lawyer, the Recorder reports. Then in May she allowed a producer to film her proceedings for an entire day, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance. She is accused of making improper remarks during and outside of the tapings.

Salcido issued a statement (PDF) defending courtroom humor and tough love, and said it’s time to re-examine traditional judiciary demeanor.

During the tapings, she is accused of:

• Telling a defendant who spent 72 days in custody after being arrested on a charge of urinating in public that the jail stay gives “new meaning to the term ‘zip it.’ ”

• Warning a defendant on probation that if he commits another crime “you will definitely be screwed and we don’t offer Vaseline for that.”

• Asked courtroom spectators for a “woo, woo, woo” after learning a defendant had tested positive for marijuana.

• Asked a defendant who said he heard voices to tell her if they said, “Hurt the judge, hurt the judge.”

Outside of the tapings, she is also accused of improper courtroom comments, including joking remarks about booty calls in a domestic violence case.

Salcido’s statement said the Commission on Judicial Performance was focusing on just 38 comments made out of an estimated 12,000 court appearances in the last 18 months.

“I have found the use of humor and a ‘tough love’ approach to be very successful in getting through to the criminal defendants and helping them see the benefits of cleaning up their lives,” she said. “I believe the time is now ripe for our judicial system to begin examining whether the traditional demeanor and approach of the judiciary is the best means for accomplishing justice, particularly in a rapidly changing world with a culturally diverse population.”

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