Judge who turned court into reality show resigns
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
(11-10) 16:17 PST SAN DIEGO -- A state commission accepted the resignation Wednesday of a San Diego judge who auditioned for a reality-TV program in her courtroom, led spectators in "woo-woo" chants, and told a defendant that if he violated probation, "you will definitely be screwed and we don't offer Vaseline for that."
The Commission on Judicial Performance censured Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido on the condition that she leave the bench. The commission said she had committed 39 acts of misconduct.
Salcido has expressed regret for the "Vaseline" remark and a few other actions, but issued an unapologetic statement Wednesday saying there were "certain perceptions of my style that made it prudent for me to move on."
"Humor and less formality in certain courtroom contexts can be very effective," Salcido said. Her comments were intended to "connect with the offenders, the victims and others in the courtroom," she said.
Salcido, 45, a former prosecutor and business lawyer, was appointed to the bench by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. She was elected to a new six-year term in June, when she was one of four San Diego judges unsuccessfully challenged by conservative Christian lawyers. The commission made its charges public in September.
Salcido acknowledged allowing a local television producer, who was looking into a possible "Judge Judy"-type show, to film a day of proceedings in her court in May 2009. The commission said Salcido had agreed to "line up my most interesting cases" for that day and appeared to be playing to the cameras.
Referring to one defendant's positive test for marijuana, she asked the audience, "Can I get a woo, woo, woo?"
She later led the spectators in a chant of, "Do or do not, there is no try," asked another defendant that day if he needed to "call the lifeline" about a sentencing choice, and told a defendant he would be "screwed" without Vaseline if jailed for a probation violation, the commission said.
In another case that day, the commission said, Salcido noted that a defendant was smiling, and told him, "They might like your smile in jail." She later told the commission she regretted the comment.
Salcido also disparaged other court personnel, the commission said. She referred to a fellow judge as "assistant public defender" and described court clerks several times as "cucumbers."
The commission said judicial humor "should never be used in a courtroom, as it was by Judge Salcido, to ridicule, embarrass or disparage others, or in a manner that diminishes the dignity of the judicial process."
E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.