Contra Costa County Judge Faces Nine Misconduct Charges

September 21, 2018 10:00 am · 7 comments

A Contra Costa Superior Court judge is facing nine charges of judicial misconduct, including sexual harassment of women lawyers and improper treatment of defendants, a state commission announced this week.

Judge John Laettner, 62, a 12-year veteran of the court, was charged with violating judicial ethics by the state Commission on Judicial Performance in San Francisco.

The next step will be a hearing before special masters appointed by the California Supreme Court. That panel will then report its findings to the commission, which will decide whether Laettner should be disciplined.

The commission has the power to admonish or censure judges or remove them from the bench. Its actions can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Four of the charges accuse Laettner of engaging in “unwelcome, undignified, discourteous, and offensive” conduct that would “reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment” toward about a dozen women, including six deputy public defenders, a prosecutor, a court reporter and defendants between 2007 and 2018.

Laettner is accused of telling a deputy public defender in court in 2016 that “Sometimes having you in here is like having a teenage daughter – you argue all the time,” and at another hearing, winking at her and then
calling her up to the bench to ask whether she saw the wink. In a disagreement during a private conversation the next year, he allegedly told the attorney that her parents didn’t “spank” her enough.

The judge is accused of frequently publicly commenting on the appearances of two other defenders, asking intrusive questions about the ancestry and upbringing of a part-Japanese defender, telling a court reporter she was “hot,” and commenting on two female defendants’ tattoos.

The commission also charged Laettner with revoking two defendants’ bail or own-recognizance release without a hearing, failing to disclose in a timely way that his son was working for the District Attorney’s Office, and offering defendants who pleaded guilty a 25 percent reduction in their sentences and fines in order to clear a backlog of cases in 2017.

Laettner’s lawyer in the proceeding, James Murphy of San Francisco, was not immediately available for comment.

Laettner was appointed to the court in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Laettner previously worked as a private lawyer, as a deputy Tulare County district attorney and as the chief of the Northern California U.S. attorney’s Oakland office.

The Commission on Judicial Performance is made up of six public members, three judges, and two lawyers.

Ricardoh September 21, 2018 at 10:50 AM

If only democrats would acknowledge their own sex offenders and abusers I would take these charges seriously. This guy seems no worse than their hero Uncle Joe Biden. Not nearly as bad as Keith Ellison. The list goes on but why bother.

The Mamba September 21, 2018 at 11:36 AM

Nope, none of those things would be legally determined to be harassment by the definition of the law. Not even close.

Kentucky Derby September 21, 2018 at 11:58 AM

This is definitely sexual harassment. You’re in the workforce, not under the influence in a bar – last call style. Give me a break. If men can’t interact with women without acting like they’re in a bar – work from home. Or at least have someone in your life to satisfy your “needs.” And ladies – carry yourself properly.. And dress respectfully. If you don’t respect yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to respect you.

Men and women can easily work together. If they “try.” And keep in mind why you’re at work. 100% professional goes a long way…

martinezmike September 21, 2018 at 12:37 PM

For fun comments, A picture of the judge is really needed for this story.

Cartman September 21, 2018 at 1:02 PM


Barbie Girl September 21, 2018 at 2:48 PM

It goes both ways. Women can be just as bad or worse. I’ve worked in media environments where I’ve actually felt sorry for the shy guys in the office. Some of the women were gross pigs who would embarrass Hugh Hefner. One was such a slut, we called her “The Student Body.” We had a female boss explain and describe her va jay jay to an entire office on her first day on the job. (Nutjob) And yet if a guy said, “Hi Honey” they would be the first to scream harassment. I’ve also had the publisher of a newspaper tell me to take off my clothes. (in jest but what a dumba!@#)….eye roll, eye roll, eye roll, the best way to get along……….

Concord Grape September 21, 2018 at 4:42 PM

Hey, I kissed a girl when I was in grade school. Thank God I am not a public servant

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