SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego judge called an adult man a "little boy" in his courtroom, repeatedly noted the physical attractiveness of female attorneys and spoke to litigants in Spanish based on their surnames, among other misconduct that nearly led to his removal from office, a state disciplinary agency said Thursday.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Gary G. Kreep was charged with 29 acts of judicial misconduct by California's Commission on Judicial Performance. The watchdog agency Thursday issued a "severe public censure" of Kreep, the highest level of discipline the commission can impose short of removal from the bench.
"After taking office, he often ran his courtroom in a manner that was undignified and suggested bias or prejudgment," the commission noted.
Kreep admitted that he ran his courtroom too casually and that many of his comments could be perceived as improper but failed to see what was wrong with other incidents, such as commenting on an attorney's pregnancy and the physical attractiveness of female public defenders, or asking a prostitute whether she did it for the money or the action, the commission said.
Kreep was hostile toward the San Diego City Attorney's Office after they filed a "blanket" challenge against the judge and told an African-American court employee that she should not say she did not win a Halloween costume contest "due to racism" or words to that effect, the commission said.
The commission concluded that Kreep's behavior undermined public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and said that the number of incidents of misconduct and Kreep's failure to acknowledge them warrant removal from the bench.
But the agency did not go that far because Kreep's behavior has improved after his first year on the bench, the commission said.
Kreep's attorney, James Murphy, said his client appreciates that the commission is giving him another chance.
"Judge Kreep clearly has changed his course and started dealing with people appearing before him in a more structured fashion rather than the casual structure he employed in the past," Murphy said.
He added that for the most part the complaints against the judge have now ceased.