LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County judge with a history of bad behavior has been disciplined for being irritable with defense lawyers and telling an acquitted man that “there’s no question in my mind that you’re guilty.”
Judge Patrick Connolly was publicly admonished for displaying improper demeanor toward two criminal defense lawyers and for an inappropriate remark after a jury verdict, the Commission on Judicial Performance said Friday.
It was the third time Connolly has been disciplined since he became a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 2009. He was admonished in 2016 for abusing his authority by conducting a hearing to determine if a defense lawyer should face contempt charges. He was privately admonished in 2010 for using profanity with lawyers.
Connolly, a former gang prosecutor who presides in the Compton courthouse, told a man acquitted in a shooting case in 2018 that he was lucky.
“Let me tell you, you’ve been given a gift from God,” Connolly told Eugene Germany. “Because there’s no question in my mind that you’re guilty of this crime."
Germany and a co-defendant had been charged with opening fire at a fleeing vehicle after the driver had stabbed one of their friends.
Connolly appeared to chastise Germany, for not accepting a plea deal that would have sent him and a co-defendant, Dalisha Monique Jordan, to prison for six years if they both agreed to plead guilty.
Jordan wanted to accept the plea offer, but it was relinquished when Germany rejected it.
“I’ll tell you, chivalry is not dead,” Connolly told Germany. “If you’d taken the deal, Ms. Jordan would have had that six-year deal. She’s going to get a lot more time than that. So, you know, take that into consideration.”
Jordan was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
In another instance last year, Connolly was irritable with defense lawyers who had requested to appear at an arraignment by telephone because they feared they had been exposed to COVID-19. Connolly had agreed to the telephone hearing but then appeared to hold it against the lawyers and their clients.
The attorneys for brothers Jorge and Felipe Ramirez, who were charged with assaulting a police officer, asked that their clients be released without bail because of concerns they could be susceptible to coronavirus in jail.
Defense lawyer Martin Lijtmaer said he had letters attesting to his client's health and the judge repeatedly snapped: "How am I going to see that letter, if you’re not in my courtroom?"
Lijtmaer tried to respond, saying, “Your honor, respectfully, the reason I didn’t ... ” before being cut off.
“Respectfully?” Connolly said. “You have not come to the courtroom.”
Connolly refused to release either man without bail.
Lijtmaer said his client and brother had to post “ridiculously high bail” that has nearly bankrupted their family. He said the cases both ended without prison time and the charges will ultimately be dismissed.
Connolly acknowledged he “spoke too sharply” to the lawyers and asked the commission to consider “the highly unusual circumstances” that the hearing was just a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-home order.
The commission said Connolly did not acknowledge his misconduct or show contrition.
Connolly did not immediately return a message seeking comment left with his courtroom clerk.