22 April 2013

Judge Jaime Roman Embroilment, Abuse of Authority Against Outside Attorney Suggests Judge Pro Tem Attorney Monopoly, Implicates Anti-Trust, Unfair Competition Laws

California 3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento Justice Vance W. Raye – Justice Jonathan K. Renner - Justice Coleman A. Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George W. Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis R. Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Justice Jonathan K. Renner Third District Court of Appeal California - California Commission on Judicial Performance Director Victoria B. Henley Chief Council - CJP Chairperson Anthony P. Capozzi, Vice-Chairperson Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo 1st District Court of Appeal California
Divorce attorneys Sharon Huddle (R) and Charlotte Keeley face-off at a hearing before Judge John Winn. 

News Analysis & Opinion

For Roseville family law attorney Sharon Huddle, the Sacramento Family Court proceedings surrounding issuance of a controversial order designating her client Andrew Karres a vexatious litigant may be déjà vu all over again. Throughout the 20-page order, written by Judge Jaime R. Roman, Huddle and her client are demeaned, disparaged and ridiculed. 

The opposing attorney - Judge Pro Tem Charlotte Keeley - and her client, Mel Rapton Honda heiress Katina Rapton, are portrayed by Roman in the patently unlawful order as victims. For our complete coverage of the vexatious litigant order and the Rapton-Karres case, click here

Huddle was subjected to similar treatment by controversial Judge Peter J. McBrien during a family court trial in March, 2006. McBrien's treatment of Huddle was later recounted by eyewitness and court reporter Robbi Joy in sworn testimony before the Commission on Judicial Performance, where the rogue judge received his second round of discipline by the CJP. 

The transcript of Joy's testimony - obtained exclusively and published for the first time by Sacramento Family Court News - provides still more explicit evidence of the preferential treatment and kickbacks given by judges to the cartel of local family law attorneys who also serve as temporary judges.

The transcript and other records from the McBrien CJP proceedings also provide a troubling point of reference indicating that the unlawful, interdependent relationship between full-time judges and judge pro tem attorneys dates back at least seven years and is now all but institutionalized. 

California Unfair Competition Law 


Court watchdogs and whistleblowers have cataloged an array of other examples of judge pro tem favoritism, including undisclosed conflicts of interest and counterfeit court filings that impede the appeal rights of unrepresented litigants. They assert that financially disadvantaged, self-represented family court litigants with little or no knowledge of family law and court procedure are treated even harsher than outside-the-cartel lawyers like Huddle. 

Watchdogs point to informal audits of several family court cases and anecdotal evidence indicating that cartel attorneys obtain favorable rulings on disputed issues at a statistically improbable rate.

The collusion between full-time judges and judge pro tem attorneys constitutes unfair, fraudulent, and unlawful business practices, all of which are prohibited under California unfair competition laws, including Business and Professions Code § 17200, according to court reform advocates.

Whether a party is self-represented or represented by an "outsider" attorney, a judge pro tem attorney on the opposing side is the common denominator in lopsided, unfair and unlawful court rulings. They contend that taxpayers inevitably will be held liable for class action or institutional reform litigation [pdf], or government enforcement under B&P Code § 17200 on behalf of outside attorneys and pro per litigants against the court and the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section.

"She Wasn't An Insider. She Wasn't a Pro Tem." 


Divorce Attorney Charlotte Keeley - Keeley Family Law Attorney Kerry M. Smith - Family Law Lawyer Charlotte L. Keeley - Divorce Lawyer Kerry Smith Keeley Family Law - Judge Kevin Culhane Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Mize - Judge Jaime Roman Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thadd Blizzard - California 3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento Justice Vance W. Raye – Justice Jonathan K. Renner - Justice Coleman A. Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George W. Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis R. Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Justice Jonathan K. Renner Third District Court of Appeal California - California Commission on Judicial Performance Director Victoria B. Henley Chief Council - CJP Chairperson Anthony P. Capozzi, Vice-Chairperson Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo 1st District Court of Appeal California
Judge Denise de Bellefeuille
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille was one of three judges assigned to hear and decide the fate of Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien in his 2009 disciplinary proceedings before the Commission on Judicial Performance. 

In her assessment of the testimony and evidence considered by the 3-judge panel, she candidly acknowledged that McBrien's favorable treatment of judge pro tem attorney Charlotte Keeley and harsh treatment of attorney Sharon Huddle was partly attributable to the fact that Huddle "wasn't an insider. She wasn't a pro tem."

When San Francisco attorney Stephen R. Gianelli read an article in the ABA Journal on the court of appeal decision in the Carlsson case, he wrote about his own nightmarish experience as an outsider attorney in Sacramento Family Court. Like Huddle, Gianelli also faced off against judge pro tem Charlotte Keeley
"[I] was attacked personally in court filing after court filing. I was required to drive from San Francisco to Sacramento (a three hour round trip drive) over six times on 24 hours notice, in my opinion to harass me and make me quit," the attorney said. "[T]his is a 'juice court' in which counsel outside Sacramento have little chance of prevailing...[the] court has now abandoned even a pretense of being fair to outside counsel." 
In future posts, SFCN will have more, never before published information on the McBrien CJP proceedings, including transcripts of sworn statements by character witnesses who testified on McBrien's behalf, including full-time and temporary Sacramento County Superior Court judges. Judge pro tem lawyers who testified for McBrien include Camille Hemmer, Jerry Guthrie, Robert O'Hair, and current chair of the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section Russell Carlson.

The Neutral Third Party


Divorce Attorney Charlotte Keeley - Keeley Family Law Attorney Kerry M. Smith - Family Law Lawyer Charlotte L. Keeley - Divorce Lawyer Kerry Smith Keeley Family Law - Judge Kevin Culhane Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Mize - Judge Jaime Roman Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thadd Blizzard - California 3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento Justice Vance W. Raye – Justice Jonathan K. Renner - Justice Coleman A. Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George W. Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis R. Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Justice Jonathan K. Renner Third District Court of Appeal California - California Commission on Judicial Performance Director Victoria B. Henley Chief Council - CJP Chairperson Anthony P. Capozzi, Vice-Chairperson Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo 1st District Court of Appeal California

The relevance of court reporter Robbi Joy's testimony about the contrast between how Judge McBrien treated outsider attorney Sharon Huddle and temporary judge attorney Charlotte Keeley during the Carlsson trial was described by CJP attorney Andrew Blum. 
"Robbi Joy is a neutral third party. She's not friends with any of these people. She's been a court reporter for a long time, and she has seen a lot of what takes place in courtrooms. She testified that the judge was demeaning to Ms. Huddle, treated her with disdain and displayed irritation towards her throughout the trial, and she never saw Ms. Huddle do anything to justify that conduct," Blum said.
"Even Judge McBrien admitted that some of his comments could make it appear that he was badgering Ms. Huddle in an inappropriate manner. Now, in addition to what these actual observers said, the record shows that he repeatedly threatened a mistrial from early on in the trial, curtailed her presentation of evidence, threatened her with contempt, and he would barely let her take breaks to go to the bathroom," Blum recounted
Robbi Joy's testimony included the following exchange:

Q. During the Carlsson trial, how would you describe Judge McBrien's behavior towards Attorney Huddle?

A [Robbi Joy]. Demeaning. This is hard. He is a judge. I have no ill will toward him. But it was remarkable to me that he seemed to have an amicable relationship with Ms. Keeley, but he seemed so irritated with Ms. Huddle. In fact, I asked the deputy -

MR. MURPHY: Objection –

SPECIAL MASTER CORNELL: Sustained.

MR. MURPHY: hearsay.

BY MR. BLUM:

Q. What did the judge do that makes you say that he was demeaning towards Ms. Huddle?

A. A couple of times she asked for just a brief break. She finally said, frankly, "I want to use the restroom, and you've given me a couple of tasks, phone calls to make," and he said, "one minute." And he repeatedly threatened a mistrial. I've seen this happen. 

Divorce Attorney Charlotte Keeley - Keeley Family Law Attorney Kerry M. Smith - Family Law Lawyer Charlotte L. Keeley - Divorce Lawyer Kerry Smith Keeley Family Law - Judge Kevin Culhane Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Mize - Judge Jaime Roman Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Thadd BlizzardIf you say it's to wrap up Friday and it's already Friday and it seems to be going on and on, that the judge may say, "We're headed for a mistrial" or "none of us want a mistrial. " But he, I would say, at least five times said, "Do you want a mistrial? Just, let's have a mistrial, " which is something, of course, that nobody wants to have to go through.

Q. Did the judge's poor demeanor towards Ms. Huddle begin on the first day of trial?

A. Yes.

Q. Did it continue throughout the trial?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you observe Ms. Huddle do anything that would justify Judge McBrien's attitude towards her?

A. No. I felt that she and Ms. Keeley comported themselves as professionals.

Q. Would you say that Ms. Huddle was ever rude or disrespectful to the judge?

A. No.

Q. I think you touched on this, but how did Judge McBrien treat Ms. Keeley?

A. In a much more respectful manner.

Q. Did Judge McBrien treat you poorly?

A. No.

Q. Were the attorneys rude to each other?

A. No.

Q. In your years as a court reporter, have you ever seen a judge behave this way, the way Judge McBrien behaved towards Ms. Huddle?

A. Not to be glib, but not even on television.

Q. So that's a no?

A. That's a no. I certainly have seen judges lose their temper, if they're consuming time or if it's just -- for a reason. But I have not seen a judge, without some prior history of dealing with this attorney or -- or for some other reason, just seeming to have disdain for them.

To read Robbi Joy's complete testimony, click here.

In 2008, the 3rd District Court of Appeal described how Huddle's client, Ulf Carlsson, was ultimately treated at the conclusion of the 2006 trial. The description bears similarities to the recent treatment of Huddle client Andrew Karres by Judge Jaime R. Roman
"Judge McBrien issued a written decision, ruling against Ulf on almost every issue. He rejected Ulf's contention that Mona was underemployed, ruled ruled that Ulf and Mona were sole owners of the rental property; ordered both the family residence and the rental property sold; failed to segregate Ulf's retirement account for purposes of awarding Mona her community share; and ordered Ulf to pay Mona $35,000 in attorney and expert witness fees.
Despite the court's prior handwritten order that child support would not be determined until custody was resolved, the judgment ordered Ulf to pay $736 per month in child support." 
NEXT: The Huddle-Keeley-McBrien backstory, continued: The revealing ex parte communication between Judge Peter J. McBrien and Judge Pro Tem Charlotte Keeley, and McBrien's secret transcript request. 

Related articles:

Sacramento Family Court News has continuing coverage of issues involving judge pro tem attorneys and financially disadvantaged, unrepresented litigants. For a list of all posts about temporary judges, click here. Our special, independent Judge Pro Tems Page is at this link. Specific issues with direct links include:
  • A variety of illegal tactics used by court employees, judges, the Family Law Facilitator Office and judge pro tem attorneys to obstruct family court appeals by unrepresented, financially disadvantaged litigants.Click here
  • Full-time family court judges failure to disclose judge pro tem conflicts of interest to opposing parties and attorneys. Click here
  • Judge pro tem attorneys promoted a software program sold by the wife of a family court judge. Click here
  • Court administrators concealing from the public judge pro tem attorney misconduct, including sexual battery against clients. Click here
  • Illegal use of California vexatious litigant law by family court judges. Click here
  • Waiver of judge pro tem qualification standards. Click here
  • Failure to adequately train family court judges. Click here
  • Allowing courtroom clerks to issue incomplete, useless fee waiver orders which prevent indigent and financially disadvantaged litigants from serving and filing documents. Click here
  • Preferential treatment provided to judge pro tem attorneys by family court judges, administrators, and employees. Click here
  • Unfair competition and monopolistic practices by family court judges and attorneys who also hold the Office of Temporary Judge which may violate state unfair competition laws. Click here
  • Judges cherry-pick state law and court rules to rewrite established law to reach a predetermined result to benefit judge pro tem attorneys. Click here
  • The waste of scarce court resources and taxpayer funds caused by unnecessary appeals and other court proceedings. Click here and here
  • Allowing judges with a documented history of misconduct and mistreatment of unrepresented litigants to remain in family court. Click here
  • Concealing from the public but disclosing to the family law bar the demotion of problem judges. Click here
  • Failing to enforce the Code of Judicial Ethics provisions applicable to temporary judges. Click here
  • Allowing court clerks to commit perjury without apparent consequences. Click here
  • Permitting Family Law Facilitator Office staff to dispense false information to unrepresented, financially disadvantaged litigants. Click here.
Click to visit Sacramento Family Court News on: Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Scribd, Vimeo, and Twitter. For additional reporting on the people and issues in this post, click the corresponding labels below: