Judge Matthew Gary Fails To Disclose Wife's Software and Legal Services Companies Conflict of Interest(updated)
|Judge Pro Tems and family law attorneys Jacqueline Eston and Nancy Perkovich help promote client management software sold by Donna Gary, wife of family court Judge Matthew J. Gary. Source: Sacramento Business Journal.|
"ClientTickler costs no more than $150 per user and has applications far beyond law firms. Busy soccer moms juggling a myriad of kid activities, for example. Or hair dressers who want to be free to fire off a message to a client who hasn't been in for a while. Gary has sunk more than $50,000 into the product, but expects to double that this month when she markets the launch. A trademark is pending," reported the Journal.The Journal coverage includes a photo of Donna Gary with Sacramento divorce and family law attorneys Jacqueline Eston and Nancy Perkovich endorsing the product. Both Eston and Perkovich also serve as temporary judges in Sacramento Family Court.
"Jackie Eston, like Gary, was an administrative staffer for years. Then she went to law school. Now she practices family law in her own Sacramento office. 'There are lots of reminders and ticklers out there, but this one really does what Donna says,' Eston said. 'I use (other) computer systems as well, but none really do what the little box did,' Eston added. 'It's hard to be a lawyer and a businessperson - and this helps.'"To continue reading, click Read more>> below...
Family court watchdogs point out that every attorney who appears in the courtroom of family court Judge Matthew J. Gary is either a potential customer of his wife, or is a customer of his wife, requiring the judge to disclose the potential conflict of interest in cases where one party is self-represented. "Of course, no one has ever heard of Gary disclosing the conflict of interest, which is required by required by the Code of Judicial Ethics," said watchdog Robert Saunders.
In the event of a conflict of interest, state law requires judges to disqualify themselves if, for example, a person aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt that the judge would be able to be impartial, or if the judge believes her or his recusal would further the interests of justice. To view a filed order where a judge self-disqualified on these grounds, click here.
California Judicial Council StandardsThe California Judges Benchguides series published by the Judicial Council includes a volume on Disqualification of a Judge. Click here to view the complete publication. Section 2.14 of the Benchguide covers the issue of the connection between a judge's family member and an attorney or party in a case. The section indicates that Judge Gary has, at a minimum, a legal duty to disclose on the record the potential conflict of interest posed by his wife's business. Click here.
Disclosure provides the parties an opportunity to weigh the information when considering whether to challenge the judge, according to the Benchguide. The Benchguide also emphasizes that no actual bias is required, and that bias may be implied from a connection between a party and a judge that otherwise is not a statutory ground for disqualification. Click here and here.
Disclosure vs. Disqualification
|Judge Matthew Gary is required to disclose on the record information relevant to the question |
of disqualification even if he believes there is no actual basis for disqualification,
according to this Benchguide from the Judicial Council.
In this minute order, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Richard K. Sueyoshi complied with state law applicable to the disclosure of information relevant to the question of disqualification:
"While it finds no basis for disqualification, the court, in an abundance of caution, discloses to all parties, the following facts relating to [defense] counsel: (1) Prior to joining the bench, the court served as chair of a county bar committee for which [defense counsel] served as a committee member. The court's prior contact with [defense counsel] was limited to such context. (2) The court currently serves as a member of the Strategic Evaluation Committee, which was formed by the Chief Justice in March 2011 to evaluate and make findings and recommendations to improve the efficiency of the Administrative Office of the Courts." Click here to view Judge Sueyoshi's written disclosure.All family court judges also are required to disclose to opposing parties on the record the potential conflict of interest that occurs when a judge pro tem appears in court as private counsel. Court watchdogs who have conducted informal audits of a number of family court case files say there is no indication that the conflict disclosure has ever been made.
"This is yet another example of the flagrant cronyism between judges and family law attorneys who also act as judge pro tems. Since there is no oversight or accountability for judges who violate ethics rules, they don't even bother to conceal it," Saunders said.
In addition, under the Code of Judicial Ethics, as sworn temporary judges both Eston and Perkovich are required to take or initiate appropriate corrective action if they receive reliable information that another judge has violated any provision of the Code. The mandatory requirement is a critical self-policing component of judge ethical standards. Click here to view a Judicial Council directive about the duty to take corrective action and the types of actions required.
Donna Gary also owns Legal Administrative Services, which provides billing and bookkeeping for law firms. Gary's company also helps lawyers who want to leave law firms and strike out on their own. She's handled more than 35 local startups, according to the Journal.
|Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.|
In a 2007 interview with Sacramento Lawyer magazine, Gary characterized his legal philosophy as "favoring judicial restraint," and said he admired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Judge Gary was found guilty in 2010 by San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Xapuri B. Villapudua of not following proper contempt procedures when he had a disabled litigant arrested and forcibly removed from his courtroom.
Gary is a graduate of El Camino High School in Sacramento and previously worked at his father’s law firm, Gary, Till & Burlingham. His father, Richard Gary, is a family law attorney. Links on the firm's resources page include the Christian Legal Society and the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation.
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