12 April 2016

Sacramento Superior Court Watchdog Group Calls on Presiding Judge Kevin Culhane to Rectify Improper Judge-Clerk Relationship

California Supreme Court Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, Justice Ming W. Chin, Justice Carol A. Corrigan, Justice Goodwin H. Liu, Justice Mariano Florentino-Cuellar, Justice Leondra R. Kruger Supreme Court of California
Kern County Judge Cory Woodward was punished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for having an improper personal relationship with his courtroom clerk. Sacramento County Judge Matthew Gary reportedly has had a similar relationship with his courtroom clerk, Christina Arcuri, for at least four years. 

"[I]t is time for this charade to end." 

Sacramento Family Court Corruption, a Facebook watchdog group with over 600 followers, has issued an open letter to Sacramento County Presiding Judge Kevin Culhane regarding an alleged improper relationship between a Sacramento Superior Court judge and his courtroom clerk. 

The whistleblower group alleges that Judge Matthew Gary has been in a consensual, personal relationship with his clerk, Christina Arcuri for more than five years. Both Gary and Arcuri also have been involved in a number of controversies involving the alleged mistreatment of indigent, disabled, and financially disadvantaged family court parties who are self-represented.

In the letter to Culhane, the group invoked California Code of Judicial Ethics canon 3D(1), which requires a judge to take "corrective action" if they become aware of misconduct by another judge. In addition, as the designated presiding judge, Culhane is responsible for the supervision of all other judges, according to California Rules of Court rule 10.603.

The group contends that the alleged Gary-Arcuri relationship is similar to the judge-clerk relationship of Kern County Judge Cory Woodward and his clerk. In 2014, Woodward was punished by the state Commission on Judicial Performance because a judge is not allowed to be in a supervisory role over someone with whom the judge has a personal relationship, among other charges. The Woodward CJP decision is embedded at the end of this post.

The open letter to Culhane, with edits for clarity, is reprinted below:     

Dear Judge Culhane,
This letter shall serve as notification pursuant to canon 3D(1) of the California Code of Judicial Ethics regarding misconduct by a judge under your supervision.
As you may know, canon 3D(1) mandates that you take or initiate appropriate corrective action when you are notified that another judge has violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Ethics. Your duty under this provision in not discretionary.
It is common knowledge among many court employees, attorneys, and even some public court users that Judge Matthew Gary is engaged in an improper personal relationship with his court clerk, Christina Arcuri.
As set forth in the 2014 Commission on Judicial Performance decision and order imposing discipline on Kern County Judge Cory Woodward, a consensual judge-clerk relationship violates several provisions of the Code of Judicial Ethics.
The Woodward case is in many respects identical to the situation with Judge Gary. Among other authority, the Woodward disciplinary decision cites the California Judicial Conduct Handbook, by Judge David Rothman.
"Judge Rothman states that 'it is fundamental that a judge not be placed in a supervisory role over someone with whom the judge has a close personal relationship,'" according to the Woodward decision. For your convenience, the Woodward CJP decision is attached. 
It is also common knowledge among coworkers that this improper relationship has been going on for at least four years, and caused or contributed to the judges' divorce in or about 2011-2012.
At least two presiding judges before you, Laurie Earl and Robert Hight, turned a blind eye to this matter, and it is time for this charade to end.
This is very serious matter implicating the integrity of the court. If you do not take corrective action, you will be in violation of canon 3D(1) and will be reported to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and please advise as to what corrective action will be taken.