Sunday, February 28, 2010

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge is Censured for Abusing his Authority

Los Angeles Superior Court judge Brett C. Klein has resigned from his position after the California Commission on Judicial Performance ("CCJP") barred the judge from presiding over any other court cases and from accepting any court-referred assignments. According to the CCJP Decision, the CCJP brought a notice of formal proceeding against Judge Klein on January 14, 2010, for "misconduct constituting an abuse of authority and reflecting embroilment, bias and a failure to be patient, dignified and courteous in his handling of a hearing in a class action lawsuit."

Jacqueline Cohen, et al. vs. Windsor Fashions, Inc., et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, case no. BC 381468, was a class action lawsuit against a women's clothing chain store. The case was assigned to Judge Susan Bryant-Deason. The parties had reached a mediated settlement whereby defendant would issue a $10 gift voucher to each class member, the class representative would be paid $2,500, and the class action counsel would receive $125,000 in attorney's fees. The parties had given notice to the class members, and had subsequently brought a motion for the final approval of the settlement terms. Judge Bryant-Deason had preliminarily approved this settlement, but when Judge Bryant Deason became ill, Judge Klein presided over the final approval hearing of the class action settlement on January 16, 2009.

At the final approval hearing, Judge Klein made certain sarcastic remarks towards Plaintiffs' counsel, and ordered that he would receive a number of gift vouchers from Defendant--a women's clothing retailer--as his legal fees in lieu of the $125,000 in cash that had been preliminarily approved. Judge Klein signed the final approval order and e-mailed it to the parties' attorneys. As well, Judge Klein sent a copy of this order to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise which newspaper published an article about it. Noting Judge Klein's prior conduct, and the way he handled the Windsor Fashions, Inc. case, CCJP issued a censure against Judge Klein pursuant to Article VI, Section 18, Subsection (d) of the California Constitution.

In 1990, Governor George Deukmejian appointed Brett C. Klein to the Los Angeles Municipal Court. In 2000, the California judicial system went through a unification process, during which process Judge Klein was elevated to a Superior Court judge. On November 30, 2009, Judge Klein irrevocably retired from his judicial position, thus ending his nearly two decades at the bench.

The materials for this weblog were gathered from various sources, including Los Angeles Times blog, American Bar Association Journal article, Metropolitan News-Enterprise and WikiMedia. For further information, run a search on Google.

Robin Mashal is a Los Angeles business attorney, and a partner at the law firm of Hong & Mashal LLP. He can be reached by phone at (310) 286-2000.

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