Judge Sanctioned for Sarcastic Remarks

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A Los Angeles judge been publicly admonished for treating an attorney in a “belittling, rude and sarcastic manner” and for abusing his authority, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The opinion (PDF) by the California Commission on Judicial Performance says conduct rules require judges to be patient, dignified and courteous to the lawyers who appear before them.

Ronald M. Sohigian did not comply with the rules in an exchange with a lawyer representing a law firm seeking attorney fees, the opinion said. When the lawyer could not answer a question, Sohigian ordered him to research the answer at the law library and complained when he learned the attorney relied on staffers to find the relevant cases.

“I told you to go across the street to the law library,” the judge said. “If you didn’t do that, if you had someone call you or you called somebody and had someone read something to you, that’s obviously not what I ordered or suggested at all.”

In the same hearing, the judge also criticized the attorney for saying he did not have a pleading with him and then saying he believed he had it in box in the courtroom.

“I beg of you, sir, when I ask you a question and you give me an answer, make sure that you are telling the truth, particularly about whether you have a piece of paper with you,” the judge said. “When you tell me something and then by behavior you impeach yourself by starting to look in the briefcase put just about three and a half feet from you now—when you start to look for something that you tell me you do not have, it leaves me with a very uneasy feeling about matters having to do with credibility.”

The opinion also says the judge routinely issued orders to show cause to plaintiffs who did not appear in court even though they were not required to be there.

Sohigian says he was on medication at the time of the complaints and has changed his case management methods.

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