Corrupt Judge Bruce Clayton Mills

corrupt contra costa superior court judge bruce c Mills ignored by commission on judicial performance of state of California
Bruce Clayton Mills #115104

DISBARRED

License Status: Inactive
Address: 53 Spindrift Ct, St Augustine, FL 32092-1125
Phone: Not Available | Fax: Not Available
Email: emailbox4moi@yahoo.com | Website: Not Available
License Status, Disciplinary and Administrative History
All changes of license status due to nondisciplinary administrative matters and disciplinary actions.
Date License Status Discipline Administrative Action
Present Inactive
4/9/2023 Inactive
7/9/2022 Not eligible to practice law in CA Discipline w/actual suspension 22-O-30034
5/31/2018 Inactive
8/14/1995 Judge
12/3/1984 Admitted to the State Bar of California

Retired Contra Costa County Judge Hit With ‘Most Severe Level of Discipline’


Contra Costa County judge accused again of misconduct

A veteran Contra Costa County judge with an extensive record of discipline was accused by the state Commission on Judicial Performance on Tuesday of further misconduct in two criminal cases.

But a lawyer for Superior Court Judge Bruce Mills accused the commission of a conflict of interest because the defendant Mills sentenced in one of the cases has publicly accused the commission of covering up judicial misconduct. The defendant, Joseph Sweeney, who heads an organization called Court Reform LLC, has been among the most prominent voices in a campaign that has led the state auditor to begin a probe of the commission’s operations.

“I think it’s outrageous that the commission, with a clear conflict of interest, would bring charges against Judge Mills rather than referring the matter … to an independent body,” said the attorney, James A. Murphy. “If a judge did what the Commission on Judicial Performance did, the judge would be subject to discipline.”

The commission’s executive director, Victoria Henley, declined to comment.

Mills, 62, a former prosecutor,was appointed to the bench by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1995 and has been elected by county voters to a succession of six-year terms, most recently in 2014.

The commission privately reprimanded him in 2001 for ignoring a defendant’s request for a lawyer and trying to coerce the defendant to plead guilty. It publicly reprimanded him again in 2006 for making “discourteous” and “demeaning” comments to people appearing in his court. Mills was reprimanded again in 2013 for contacting a juvenile court judge who was hearing a case against Mills’ son.

In one of the new allegations, the commission said Mills sentenced Sweeney, who had been found in contempt of court by another judge in a family law case, to 25 days in jail in August 2016 but told him and his lawyer he could get the sentence cut in half for good behavior. But Mills imposed the sentence without half-time credits, told the sheriff’s office not to reduce Sweeney’s term, and relented only when Sweeney’s lawyer contacted him nine days later, the commission said.

In the second case, the commission said, while a jury in Mills’ court was deliberating drunken-driving charges in March 2016, the judge met privately with the prosecutor, talked about his own experience prosecuting such cases, and mentioned data that might be used to help the prosecution.

The jury deadlocked, but Mills did not remove himself from the case until the district attorney’s office disclosed the private conversation, the commission said.

Murphy, the judge’s lawyer, said the charges of misconduct in both cases were unfounded.

“Bruce Mills has had a bull’s-eye on his back with the Commission on Judicial Performance,” Murphy said. “They’ve been after him for years and years for petty things.”


Judge Bruce Mills of Walnut Creek, CA; moronic loser

First and foremost, this isn’t Bruce’s First bite at the Judicial Misconduct Apple Tree. For a previous article dealing Bruce’s conduct, visit the URL listed at the end of this article.

The state of California presented Bruce Clayton Mills with a law license in 1984 after he graduated from Lewis & Clark University Law School.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson was duped into appointing Bruce as a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge in 1995. Bruce didn’t receive the appointment because he was the most qualified attorney in the Contra Costa County area. He received it because he had proven to be a reliable lackey for the local political hacks.

It should be noted that Bruce has had his significant snout firmly implanted in the public trough for the past 30 years (1986 to 2016). Apparently, no self-respecting law firm in the greater Contra Costa County area was about to offer him a good paying job.

While presiding over a divorce case, Bruce had the chutzpah to order Joseph Sweeney jailed for writing about his divorce case on the Internet. Making matters worse is the fact that the writings were based on material contained in court files and therefore available to the public.

Mr. Sweeny is a judicial reform advocate who ended up serving 13 days in County Jail as a result of Judge Mill’s asinine and illegal order. Mills based his hyperbolic (BS) jailing on his claim that Mr. Sweeney violated a restraining order not to disclose the contents of his ex-wife’s cellphone or computer. However, the Internet postings by Mr. Sweeny described his ex-wife’s medical history and her contact with others that led to the breakup of the marriage.

What we have here is a moronic judge jailing someone for publishing information that was contained in the court file in the divorce case. In fact, it was Mr. Sweeney’s ex-wife who filed all of the information he posted on the Internet with the trial court.

Mills is a total ignoramus (my sincerest to ignoramuses) who obviously doesn’t have a clue as to what the First Amendment stands for. Apparently, Judge Mills believes he is the final arbiter of what “free speech” actually means.

Lastly, this is the kind of loser you get when political hacks like Mills are appointed to the bench by another political hack, which in this instance was former Gov. Gray Davis.

As we peak (ca. October 2016) Mills continues to sit as a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge in Walnut Creek, California.

Judge Bruce Mills of Walnut Creek, CA a certified loser, Il Duce Wannabee
Original Story

http://tinyurl.com/h3nb3w2


INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
CJP Supp. 1
[No. 192. July 30, 2013.]
INQUIRY CONCERNING JUDGE BRUCE CLAYTON MILLS
SUMMARY
A disciplinary matter was commenced concerning a superior court judge.
The Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished the judge.

The commission concluded that the judge engaged in prejudicial misconduct
and violated Cal. Code Jud. Ethics, canons 1, 2, 2A and 2B(2). By communicating
his desired resolution of his son’s case to the courtroom clerk of the
assigned pro tempore judge and participating in a favorable disposition of
the matter with the pro tempore judge through channels not available to the
public, the judge created an appearance of impropriety that undermined
public confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Moreover,
the fact that both the courtroom clerk and the pro tempore judge were
subordinate to the judge heightened the appearance and reality of impropriety.

In aggravation, the judge had been previously disciplined for using his
judicial position to bypass proper channels on behalf of his son. In mitigation,
the commission took into consideration that the judge did not overtly pressure
the courtroom clerk or the pro tempore judge to facilitate the meeting in
chambers and told the pro tempore judge to do what she wanted or words to
that effect, and the requested disposition was not more lenient than would
likely have occurred if the attorney had appeared in open court on behalf of
the judge’s son. The commission also considered in mitigation the finding
that the judge was acting as a concerned parent and the testimony of a
number of character witnesses that the judge was hardworking, conscientious,
and fair. (Opinion by Lawrence J. Simi, Chairperson.)
CJP Supp. 2 INQUIRY C ONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]

HEADNOTES
(1) Judges § 6—Discipline—Prejudicial Misconduct—Nonpublic Areas
of Courthouse—Outside Normal Process—Appearance of Impropri-
ety.—A superior court judge engaged in prejudicial misconduct and
violated Cal. Code Jud. Ethics, canons 1, 2, 2A and 2B(2). By allowing
discussion and resolution of his son’s case to take place in nonpublic
areas of the courthouse and outside the normal process, the judge created
an appearance of impropriety that undermined public confdence in the
impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.

[Cal. Forms of Pleading and Practice (2013) ch. 317, Judges, § 317.85.]
(2) Judges § 6—Discipline—Burden of Proving Charges—Clear and Con-
vincing Evidence.—The examiner for the Commission on Judicial Per-
formance has the burden of proving the charges against a judge by clear
and convincing evidence. Evidence of a charge is clear and convincing
so long as there is a high probability that the charge is true.

(3) Judges § 6—Discipline—Special Masters—Factual Findings—Legal
Conclusions.—While the Commission on Judicial Performance gives
special weight and deference to the factual fndings of the special mas-
ters because they had the advantage of observing the demeanor of the
witnesses, legal conclusions of the masters are entitled to less deference
because the commission has expertise in evaluating judicial misconduct.

(4) Judges § 6—Discipline—Prejudicial Misconduct.—Prejudicial miscon-
duct is the second most serious type of judicial misconduct. Prejudicial
conduct is distinguishable from willful misconduct in that a judge’s acts
may constitute prejudicial conduct even if not committed in a judicial
capacity, or, if committed in a judicial capacity, not committed in bad
faith. Prejudicial conduct is either conduct which a judge undertakes in
good faith but which nevertheless would appear to an objective observer
to be not only unjudicial conduct but conduct prejudicial to public es-
teem for the judicial office or willful misconduct out of office, i.e.,
unjudicial conduct committed in bad faith by a judge not then acting in a
judicial capacity. The provision that the conduct must be that which
brings the judicial office into disrepute does not require actual notoriety,
but only that the conduct, if known to an objective observer, would
appear to be prejudicial to public esteem for the judicial office.

INQUIRY C ONCERNING MILLS CJP Supp. 3
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
The subjective intent or motivation of the judge is not a signifcant
factor in assessing whether prejudicial conduct has occurred under this
standard.

(5) Judges § 6—Discipline—Improper Action.—The least serious type of
misconduct is improper action. Improper action consists of unjudicial
conduct that violates the Code of Judicial Ethics, but does not rise to the
level of prejudicial misconduct because, viewed objectively, the conduct
would not adversely affect the esteem in which the judiciary is held by
members of the public.

(6) Judges § 6—Judicial Conduct—Requirements.—Cal. Code Jud. Eth-
ics, canon 2, provides that a judge shall avoid impropriety and the
appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s activities. Cal. Code Jud.
Ethics, canon 1, provides that a judge is required to observe high
standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the
judiciary is preserved. Cal. Code Jud. Ethics, canon 2A, provides that a
judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confdence
in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Cal. Code Jud. Ethics,
canon 2B(2), provides that a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial
office to advance the personal interests of the judge or others.

(7) Judges § 1—Solicitation of Civic or Charitable Contributions—
Subordinate Judicial Officer.—A judge is prohibited from seeking civic
or charitable contributions from a subordinate judicial officer or tempo-
rary judge, although such solicitation is permitted among judges
(Cal. Code Jud. Ethics, canon 4C(3)(d)(i)).

(8) Judges § 6—Discipline—Factors.—In determining the appropriate level
of discipline, the Commission on Judicial Performance considers several
factors, including the following: number of incidents of misconduct, the
seriousness of the misconduct, whether the judge has prior discipline,
whether the judge acknowledges and appreciates the impropriety of his
actions, the impact of the misconduct on the judicial system, and the
judge’s reputation for administering his or her duties in a fair, impartial,
and dignifed manner.

(9) Judges § 6—Discipline—Capacity to Reform.—A judge’s failure to
appreciate or admit to the impropriety of his or her acts indicates a lack
of capacity to reform.

CJP Supp. 4
INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
O PINION
SIMI, Chairperson.—
I
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
This disciplinary matter concerns Judge Bruce Clayton Mills, a judge of
the Contra Costa County Superior Court. The commission commenced this
inquiry with the fling of its Notice of Formal Proceedings (Notice) on
November 1, 2012. The Notice charges Judge Mills in a single count with
engaging in judicial misconduct through his communications with a court-
room clerk and a pro tempore judge in nonpublic areas of the courthouse
concerning his son’s scheduled court appearance on an order to show cause
for failure to complete volunteer work ordered in a tobacco infraction case.
The Notice alleges that the judge sought and received credit for time his son
spent in a residential program in lieu of the required community service.

The Supreme Court appointed three special masters who held an eviden-
tiary hearing and reported to the commission. The masters are the Honorable
Dennis M. Perluss, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appel-
late District; the Honorable Gail A. Andler, Judge of the Orange County
Superior Court; and the Honorable Vincent J. O’Neill, Jr., Judge of the
Ventura County Superior Court. Judge Mills is represented by James A.
Murphy, Esq., of Murphy, Pearson, Bradley & Feeney in San Francisco,
California. The examiners for the commission are Gary W. Schons, Esq., and
Valerie Marchant, Esq.

A three-day evidentiary hearing was held before the special masters
commencing February 19, 2013, followed by oral argument on April 8,
2013.1

1 On January 29, 2013, Judge Mills fled a motion with the special masters to dismiss these
proceedings, contending that the allegations as charged did not constitute judicial misconduct.
The special masters declined to rule on the motion as beyond their purview. (See Rules of
Com. on Jud. Performance, rules 119(a), 121(b).)
T

he masters’ report to the commission, containing their findings of
fact and conclusions of law, was fled on April 25, 2013. Oral argument
before the commission was heard on June 26, 2013.

(1) The masters found that Judge Mills communicated his desired dispo-
sition of his son’s case and showed supporting documents to the courtroom
clerk in an area not accessible to the public and participated in a favorable

INQUIRY C ONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
disposition of the matter in chambers with the pro tempore judge.2
2 A pro tempore judge is an attorney who serves as a temporary judge once, sporadically, or
regularly on a part-time basis by appointment of the superior court. (See Cal. Code Jud. Ethics,
Terminology.)

We adopt the factual fndings of the masters. Based on these factual fndings, we reach
our own independent legal conclusion that Judge Mills engaged in prejudicial
misconduct, which is unjudicial conduct prejudicial to public esteem for the
judiciary. By allowing discussion and resolution of his son’s case to take
place in nonpublic areas of the courthouse and outside the normal process,
Judge Mills created an appearance of impropriety that undermines public
confdence in the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Moreover, the
fact that both the courtroom clerk and the pro tempore judge were subordi-
nate to the judge heightens the appearance and reality of impropriety.

For reasons discussed in this decision, we conclude that the purpose of
judicial discipline—protection of the public, enforcement of rigorous stan-
dards of judicial conduct, and maintenance of public confdence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary—can best be accomplished through
the imposition of a public admonishment.
II
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
A. Findings of Fact
(2) The examiner has the burden of proving the charges by clear and
convincing evidence. (Broadman v. Commission on Judicial Performance (1998)
18 Cal.4th 1079, 1090 [77 Cal.Rptr.2d 408, 959 P.2d 715] (Broadman).)
“Evidence of a charge is clear and convincing so long as there is a ‘high
probability’ that the charge is true. [Citations.]” (Ibid.)

Factual fndings of the masters are entitled to great weight because the
masters have “the advantage of observing the demeanor of the witnesses.”

(Broadman, supra, 18 Cal.4th at p. 1090; see Inquiry Concerning Freedman
(2007) 49 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 223, 232 (Freedman).) We adopt the factual
fndings of the masters, which we have determined are supported by clear and
convincing evidence.

The evidence presented at the hearing before the special masters con-
cerned, for the most part, Judge Mills’s conduct surrounding his son’s
scheduled court appearance at 1:30 p.m. on October 4, 2011, in Department
59 of the Walnut Creek courthouse to show proof of completion of volunteer

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
work in a tobacco infraction case. The son had not completed the volunteer
work because he enrolled in a residential treatment program out of state
shortly after his guilty plea. The disputed evidence involved Judge Mills’s
communications before the scheduled hearing with Jane Sims, the clerk in
Department 59, and Helen Peters, a pro tempore judge who was scheduled to
preside in Department 59 that day. The conficts in the testimony primarily
concerned the number, location, and substance of the judge’s conversations
with Ms. Sims. Most of the disputes in the evidence were resolved by the
masters in accord with Judge Mills’s testimony based on the masters’
observation of the manner in which the witnesses testifed and the extent to
which the testimony was consistent or inconsistent with other evidence.

Judge Mills has no objections to the factual fndings of the masters. The
examiner “notes concern” as to one factual fnding relevant to the masters’
credibility determination as discussed later in this decision.
In deference to the masters’ evaluation of the demeanor of the witnesses
and based on our own independent review of the record, we adopt the
following factual fndings.

On March 2, 2011, Judge Mills appeared with his minor son in Department
59 for his son’s arraignment on a charge of possession of tobacco by a minor.
Former Commissioner Joel Golub was assigned to Department 59. For more
than a decade, Judge Mills and his ex-wife Judge Cheryl Mills3
3 We refer to respondent Judge Bruce Clayton Mills as Judge Mills throughout this decision.
We refer to his former wife, Judge Cheryl Mills, by both her first and last names.
had a strained relationship with Commissioner Golub. Shortly after taking office, Judge Mills
recommended that Commissioner Golub be replaced. In 2002, Commissioner
Golub unsuccessfully ran against Cheryl Mills for judicial office. During the
campaign, Commissioner Golub fled a lawsuit against Cheryl Mills that was
ultimately dismissed. Cheryl Mills subsequently fled a lawsuit against a
person aligned with Commissioner Golub’s campaign. The masters aptly
described the relationship between Judge Mills and Commissioner Golub as
being “marked by strong, mutual antipathy.”

Judge Mills expected Commissioner Golub to recuse himself under Code of
Civil Procedure section 170.1 from hearing a matter concerning the son of
Judge Mills and Judge Cheryl Mills. However, the commissioner did not
recuse himself and Judge Mills did not move to disqualify him.4 Instead,
4 See Rothman, California Judicial Conduct Handbook (3d ed. 2007) section 7.52, page 358
(“Where the party, victim or defendant is a fellow judge or a spouse of a fellow judge, there
would at least be a perception of bias, or a reasonable doubt that any judge on the same court
would be able to maintain impartiality.”); California Judges Association, Formal Ethics
Opinion No. 56 (2006) Ethical Considerations When a Judge or a Member of a Judge’s Family

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
Has Been Arrested or Is Being Prosecuted for Criminal Activity, page 2 (“If the arrest occurs
within the jurisdiction of the judge’s court, it is recommended that the judge notify the
Presiding Judge, so that the case may be assigned to a judge whose impartiality will not be
questioned.”)

Judge Mills asked the commissioner to clarify whether the offense was a
misdemeanor or infraction, and the commissioner explained that it was an
infraction and accepted the son’s plea to the infraction. The son was ordered
to complete 20 hours of volunteer work with the American Lung Association
or the American Cancer Society and to submit proof of completion to the
court.

Shortly after the March court appearance, the son entered a 10-month
out-of-state residential rehabilitation program. Consequently, he did not com-
plete the required volunteer work. In mid-September 2011, an order to show
cause (OSC) why proof of community service had not been submitted was
issued by the court, setting the matter for 1:30 p.m. on October 4, 2011, in
Department 59. The son was still in the out-of-state program. Judge Mills and
Judge Cheryl Mills discussed the OSC and agreed an attorney should appear
for their son because Commissioner Golub would be handling the matter.
Judge Mills asked Attorney Elle Falahat, a close friend, to appear on his son’s
behalf and asked her to request that the community service requirement be
satisfed through performance in the rehabilitation program. The judge ex-
plained that the therapeutic goal of volunteer work at the American Cancer
Society or American Lung Association was served through his son’s partici-
pation in the rehabilitation program that included counseling related to
smoking.

On the morning of the October 4, 2011 scheduled hearing, Judge Mills and
Ms. Falahat spoke on the phone several times concerning her anticipated
court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Judge Mills asked her to arrive early so he
could provide her with documents concerning his son’s participation in the
rehabilitation program. At 10:21 a.m. Ms. Falahat called Judge Mills on his
cell phone and told him she could not appear at the hearing because of an
emergency. She told Judge Mills, “We have to continue it obviously.”
According to Ms. Falahat, Judge Mills was “in a state of panic” and
responded, “Let me see how I can handle this.” (Judge Mills testifed he told
Ms. Falahat, “Let me think about what I want to do, and then I’ll let you
know.” He subsequently testifed he said to her, “Well, I’ll fgure out what
we’re going to do.”) Judge Mills did not ask Ms. Falahat to call the clerk’s
office to obtain a continuance and Ms. Falahat did not offer to do so.5
5 The masters found Ms. Falahat’s failure to offer to contact the court to seek a continuance
to be a mitigating factor on Judge Mills’s behalf. We do not consider this fact to be mitigating
because Judge Mills told Ms. Falahat that he would let her know once he decided how he
wanted to proceed.

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
According to Judge Mills’s clerk, Joane Quontamatteo, the judge was upset
after Ms. Falahat informed him that she could not appear. Ms. Quontamatteo
offered to go to Department 59 and inform Ms. Sims that the attorney could
not appear and fnd out what needed to be done. Judge Mills told her he
would take care of it himself because it was a personal matter.

Judge Mills went downstairs to seek out Ms. Sims, the clerk in Department
59. He encountered her in the main clerk’s office and informed her that
neither his son nor the attorney engaged to represent him could attend the
OSC hearing that afternoon. Judge Mills responded positively when Ms. Sims
informed him that Commissioner Golub was not in that day and Helen Peters
would be presiding in Department 59. He said something along the lines of
“Well, great; that’s better.” Ms. Sims asked, “What is it on for?” The judge
explained it was an order to show cause for proof of community service and
the “lawyer was going to present the records from the program that [his son]
is in and ask for credit for time served for the program that he’s doing in lieu
of the community service.” Ms. Sims indicated that the pro tempore judge
would want to review such documents to determine if the volunteer service
obligation had been satisfied.

Judge Mills then went back to his chambers to retrieve the documents and
brought them to Ms. Sims in the administration area of the courthouse. The
documents included the parent handbook for the program and invoices for
payments to the program. Judge Mills showed the documents to Ms. Sims,
but she declined to take them.

As Judge Mills was leaving the courthouse for lunch at around noon that
day, he stopped by Ms. Sims’s office because he wanted to know “what was
going to occur” and what they wanted him to do. Ms. Sims told the judge to
come back when he returned from lunch.

Pro Tempore Judge Peters thought she arrived at the Walnut Creek
courthouse between 12:30 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. on October 4, 2011. She
testifed Ms. Sims frst told her Judge Mills’s son’s case was on calendar, an
attorney would be appearing, and there was a question of whether the
attorney could be given priority on the calendar. Sometime later, Ms. Sims
came into chambers and told Ms. Peters the attorney was not available and
Judge Mills needed to know whether he could take care of the matter before
the start of his own calendar.

The windows in Department 59 chambers look directly into the judges’
parking area. Ms. Peters testified that she noticed Judge Mills’s car arrive
shortly before the beginning of the afternoon calendar. The masters found that
Ms. Peters knew an attorney would not be appearing for Judge Mills’s son

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
before she saw the judge arrive in the parking lot.

The masters accepted Ms. Peters’s testimony that Ms. Sims initially told her an attorney
would be appearing for Judge Mills’s son and asked that the matter be given priority on the
calendar. However, the masters found that there was not clear and convincing evidence that
Judge Mills actually told Ms. Sims that an attorney would be appearing or asked for priority.

We have difficulty understanding why Ms. Sims would convey this information to Ms. Peters if
Judge Mills had not reported it to her. Nevertheless, we defer to the masters’ fnding that the
examiner did not prove this allegation by clear and convincing evidence based on the masters’
credibility determinations and inconsistencies and conficts in the evidence with respect to
when Judge Mills allegedly made this statement to Ms. Sims.

The masters concluded
that this fact refutes Ms. Sims’s testimony that Judge Mills initially told her
an attorney would appear and did not disclose that Ms. Falahat had a confict
until after he returned from lunch. The examiner urges the commission to
reject this fnding because Ms. Peters’s observation was based on a “fash” of
a car outside the chambers window

When asked on direct examination if she saw Judge Mills park his car, Ms. Peters replied,
“I wasn’t really watching. I was just in chambers and it’s a view directly outside my window.
So I didn’t look and say, ‘Oh, there’s Judge Mills; he [sic] parking.’ I just looked up and saw a
fash . . . . And I said, ‘Oh, that’s Judge Mills.’ ”
and because such a scenario is inconsis-
tent with Ms. Sims’s testimony on this issue.

We believe the evidence taken in its totality supports the masters’ fnding
that Ms. Peters knew an attorney would not be appearing when she saw Judge
Mills enter the parking lot. On cross-examination, Ms. Peters testifed, “I
knew before Judge Mills’[s] vehicle fashed, if that’s what it was, that the
lawyer was not going to be appearing. I knew that before he had entered the
building that day.” And, two other times in her testimony Ms. Peters stated or
suggested that she knew the lawyer would not be appearing before she saw
the judge enter the parking lot.

“Q. [Mr. Murphy] So before you saw Judge Mills pull into the parking spot and get out of
his car, you knew that the lawyer now could not attend the hearing; right? [¶] A. [Ms. Peters] I
believe so, yes.” Ms. Peters later testifed that when she saw Judge Mills pull into the parking
lot, “It was my expectation that he would be entering my chambers in order to dispose of [his
son’s case], yes.” She also testifed that she knew a lawyer would not be appearing before
Ms. Sims came into chambers to tell her the judge had returned from lunch.

Court security records refect that Judge Mills returned from lunch at
precisely 1:30:11 p.m. He immediately went to Ms. Sims’s office. Ms. Sims
asked the judge to wait while she went to confer with Ms. Peters. In a matter
of seconds, Ms. Sims returned and asked Judge Mills to come and talk to
Ms. Peters.
Judge Mills and Ms. Sims entered the chambers of Department 59 where
Ms. Peters was sitting behind the commissioner’s desk. Judge Mills and
Ms. Peters greeted each other, and Judge Mills expressed pleasure or relief
that she was there instead of Commissioner Golub. When Ms. Peters asked

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
what was going on in the case, Judge Mills told her the matter was on
calendar for an OSC regarding failure to complete required volunteer work.
The judge explained that his son was in an out-of-state program. According to
Judge Mills, he then told Ms. Peters his attorney intended to ask for “credit
for time served” in the program. According to Ms. Peters, Judge Mills
himself asked for that disposition when he entered the chambers. The masters
did not expressly resolve this confict in the testimony because the “practical
effect and legal consequences are no different whether Judge Mills himself
asked for the disposition or told Ms. Peters the lawyer he engaged to
represent [his son] had intended to ask for that disposition.” We agree.

Judge Mills said something to Ms. Peters like, “[D]o what you want.”
Ms. Peters asked Judge Mills about the nature of the rehabilitation program
but did not receive or review any documents. Judge Mills explained that his
son was participating in outreach in the community while in the program.
Ms. Peters concluded that participation in the program would qualify for the
community service requirement. As they were leaving chambers, each to
begin their own court calendars, Ms. Peters gave Judge Mills a hug.

In assessing her own actions, Ms. Peters testified, “I felt that I made the
right decision in the wrong place.” The resulting disposition was within her
discretion and in all likelihood, would have been the same if an attorney had
appeared in open court and made the request. When asked if she felt
pressured to grant Judge Mills’s request because he was a judge, Ms. Peters
replied, “Yeah. I did.”

Ms. Peters wrote “credit for time served, accepted” on the judge’s notes
that Ms. Sims had retrieved from her office and brought into chambers.
Ms. Sims made a similar notation on the clerk’s docket and minutes, and also
flled in “DAD” on the line for appearances. Judge Mills did not sign the
stipulation for a pro tempore judge to hear the matter until the following day,
October 5, 2011. However, Ms. Peters’s signature on the stipulation is dated
October 4, 2011. Although all proceedings in Department 59 are recorded,
neither party submitted any evidence of this matter having been recorded.

When Commissioner Golub returned to court on October 6, 2011,
Ms. Sims told him about how Judge Mills’s son’s case was handled. The
commissioner told Ms. Sims to contact the supervising judge at the Walnut
Creek courthouse, which she did.

B. Conclusions of Law
(3) While we give special weight and deference to the factual fndings of
the masters because they had the advantage of observing the demeanor of the
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57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
witnesses, legal conclusions of the masters are entitled to less deference
because the commission has “expertise in evaluating judicial misconduct.”
(Broadman, supra, 18 Cal.4th at p. 1090; see Freedman, supra, 49 Cal.4th CJP
Supp. at p. 232.) For reasons explained below, we diverge from the masters in
our legal conclusions.

There are three types of judicial misconduct: willful misconduct, prejudi-
cial misconduct and improper action. Only the latter two are pertinent in this

Willful misconduct, the most serious type of judicial misconduct, is defined by the
Supreme Court as unjudicial conduct committed in bad faith by a judge acting in his or her
judicial capacity. (Broadman, supra, 18 Cal.4th at p. 1091.) Although the Notice charges Judge
Mills with willful misconduct, the examiner did not argue before the masters or the commis-
sion that the judge engaged in willful misconduct.
case.

(4) Prejudicial misconduct is the second most serious type of judicial
misconduct. “Prejudicial conduct is distinguishable from willful misconduct
in that a judge’s acts may constitute prejudicial conduct even if not commit-
ted in a judicial capacity, or, if committed in a judicial capacity, not
committed in bad faith. Prejudicial conduct is ‘either “conduct which a judge
undertakes in good faith but which nevertheless would appear to an objective
observer to be not only unjudicial conduct but conduct prejudicial to public
esteem for the judicial office” [citation] or “willful misconduct out of office,
i.e., unjudicial conduct committed in bad faith by a judge not then acting in a
judicial capacity.” [citation].’ [Citation.]” (Broadman, supra, 18 Cal.4th at
pp. 1092–1093.) “The provision that the conduct must be that which ‘brings
the judicial office into disrepute’ does not require actual notoriety, but only
that the conduct, if known to an objective observer, would appear to be
prejudicial to public esteem for the judicial office. [Citation.]” (Adams v.
Commission on Judicial Performance (1995) 10 Cal.4th 866, 878 [42
Cal.Rptr.2d 606, 897 P.2d 544] (Adams).) “The subjective intent or motiva-
tion of the judge is not a signifcant factor in assessing whether prejudicial
conduct has occurred under this standard. [Citation.]” (Ibid.)
(5) The least serious type of misconduct is improper action. Improper
action consists of unjudicial conduct that violates the Code of Judicial Ethics,
but does not rise to the level of prejudicial misconduct because, viewed
objectively, the conduct would not adversely affect the esteem in which the
judiciary is held by members of the public. (Inquiry Concerning Ross (2005)
49 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 79, 89 (Ross); Adams, supra, 10 Cal.4th at
pp. 897–899.)
The masters concluded that by discussing the case with Ms. Peters outside
the courtroom and participating in a favorable disposition of the matter in

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
chambers, the judge created an appearance of impropriety in violation of
canon 2 of the California Code of Judicial Ethics and engaged in improper
action, but not prejudicial misconduct. Further, the masters concluded the
judge’s communications with Ms. Sims did not constitute misconduct.

The examiner contends that Judge Mills engaged in prejudicial
misconduct by meeting with Ms. Peters and in his interactions with Ms. Sims.
In addition to violating California Code of Judicial Ethics, canon 2 (a judge
shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all the judge’s
activities), the examiner contends that Judge Mills violated California Code of
Judicial Ethics, canons 1 (a judge is required to observe high standards of
conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary is pre-
served),

The California Code of Judicial Ethics was amended effective January 1, 2013. Canon 1
was amended to add the word “impartial,” so that it now reads, “An independent, impartial,
and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society.” The amendments are not
applicable in this case because they were not in effect at the time of the charged conduct.
2A (a judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public
Confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary), and 2B(2) (a
judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal
interests of the judge or others).

The Notice also charges Judge Mills with a violation of canon 3B(7), which prohibits a
judge from engaging in or considering ex parte communications. The masters concluded Judge
Mills did not violate this canon because no party other than his son was involved in the
hearing, and the evidence, established that the district attorney’s office has a policy of not
appearing on the calendar at issue in this case. The examiner does not object to this conclusion.
We adopt the conclusion of the masters.

Judge Mills urges the commission to reject the masters’ legal conclusion
that he engaged in misconduct. He maintains in his written brief to the
commission that “[t]here was absolutely nothing improper” about his conduct
and that he “acted as any concerned parent would in his situation and used
the proper channels available to him after he was notified that his son’s
attorney could not make the 1:30 [p.m.] appearance.”

We conclude that Judge Mills engaged in prejudicial misconduct by con-
veying his desired disposition of his son’s case to Ms. Sims and Ms. Peters
through channels not available to the public. His conduct falls within the
category of prejudicial misconduct arising out of conduct, which, even if not
done in bad faith, would appear to an objective observer to be conduct
prejudicial to public esteem for the judicial office. (Broadman, supra, 18
Cal.4th at p. 1092; Inquiry Concerning Hall (2006) 49 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 146,
154.) Further, through his communications with Ms. Sims and Ms. Peters,
Judge Mills used the prestige of his judicial office to infuence the disposition
of his son’s case in violation of canon 2B(2), and created an appearance of
impropriety and compromised the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary in
violation of canons 1, 2, and 2A. (See Inquiry Concerning Platt (2002) 48

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS CJP
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
Cal.4th CJP Supp. 227, 244–246 (Platt); Censure of Judge Sarmiento (2012)
No. 191 at p. 6 (Sarmiento).)
When Judge Mills learned the attorney could not appear, he could properly
have asked the attorney to seek a continuance, appeared himself at the
scheduled hearing, or called the clerk to ask for another date. These are all
courses of action available to members of the public faced with a similar
situation. Instead, he went beyond what was necessary to inform Ms. Sims of
the status of the case and bypassed normal procedures—he approached
Ms. Sims in an area not accessible to the public, told her not just that his
attorney could not appear but also of his desired resolution, and showed her
documents in support of his request. By so doing, he created the appearance
that he was using Ms. Sims as a conduit to the assigned judicial officer on
behalf of his family member. He also discussed the matter with Ms. Peters in
her chambers and off the record before the start of the afternoon calendar.

The masters summarized Judge Mills’s actions accordingly: “Although
aware he was about to enter an ethical minefeld, he elected not to follow the
safest path and simply notify the clerk’s office of the situation and request a
continuance.” The path he chose created the appearance that he obtained
special access to the court clerk and the pro tempore judge and was able to
bypass ordinary procedures by virtue of his position as a judge to the beneft
of his son and his own schedule. The case was heard before the start of the
calendar to accommodate Judge Mills’s need to start his own court calendar
on time. When asked to describe the judge’s demeanor, Ms. Peters replied,
“We were in a hurry. It felt like it was a stop along the way, an inconve-
nience, something to be done quickly and be finished.” Members of the
public are required to take time off of work to come to court and do not have
the advantage of having their case called before the start of the calendar and
off the record to accommodate their work schedule and do not have special
access to the judge’s clerk in nonpublic areas of the courthouse to provide
documentation and arguments in support of their desired disposition. Further,
Judge Mills was allowed to discuss the sensitive nature of his son’s situation
in chambers without going through the same process expected of members of
the public who request that their matter be heard in closed session. The
commission has condemned conduct that creates the appearance of a “two-
track system of justice—one for those with special access to the judge, and
the other for everyone else. The nub of the problem is the appearance or
reality that Lady Justice is not blindfolded.” (Inquiry Concerning Wasilenko
(2005) 49 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 26, 51.)

The masters concluded that an objective observer aware of all the facts
would not consider Judge Mills’s actions prejudicial to public esteem for the
judicial office because the difference between what actually occurred and

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
what Judge Mills could properly have done is slight and because the same
result would likely have occurred had the judge appeared in court. Whether
or not his son received an unusually lenient disposition as a result of Judge
Mills’s actions is not a determinative factor in our analysis of the level of
misconduct. Regardless of the final disposition, judges must be sensitive to
the appearance of impropriety inherent in discussing a family member’s court
case with the judicial officer presiding over the matter behind closed doors
and off the record. It leads to suspicions of favoritism and backdoor deals for
the select few with connections to the judicial officer hearing the matter.

(7) The fact that Ms. Sims and Ms. Peters are subordinate to Judge Mills
Magnifies the appearance of impropriety and further undermines public
Confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. Judge Mills maintains he did not
take advantage of his judicial position because he was acting in the role of a
father, not a judge, and emphasizes that he told Ms. Peters to do what she
wanted. However, Ms. Peters testifed that she felt pressured to grant Judge
Mills’s request because he was a judge. It is not surprising that a person in a
subordinate position to the judge would feel pressure to comply with a
judge’s request. For this reason, the canons prohibit a judge from seeking
civic or charitable contributions from a subordinate judicial officer or tempo-
rary judge, while permitting such solicitation among judges. (Cal. Code Jud.

Ethics, canon 4C(3)(d)(i); see Rothman, Cal. Judicial Conduct Handbook,
supra, § 10.43, p. 557.) As a judge for 16 years, the ethical boundaries
between judges and their subordinates should have been apparent to Judge
Mills.

In Platt, supra, 48 Cal.4th CJP Supp. at pp. 244–246, the judge called a
court commissioner, asked her questions about a traffic ticket issued to the
judge’s godfather, and conveyed information that his godfather was active in
the community. The commission noted that even though the facts showed
Judge Platt did not ask that any action be taken and that the commissioner
was not influenced by the judge’s call, it did not mean the commissioner did
not perceive the call as an attempt to influence. The commission observed:
“The attempt to influence is inherent in the unsolicited telephone call and the
ex parte conveyance of positive information about the offender. The judge’s
failure to explicitly ask the referee to do anything does not change the nature
of the communication.” (Id. at p. 245.)

Judge Mills also suggests that he was simply following the directives of
Ms. Sims and Ms. Peters. However, as a judge, he was responsible for
ensuring that his son’s case was handled no differently than any other matter
before the court and that he was not granted procedural shortcuts because of
his judicial position, particularly when dealing with those who are subordi-
nate to him.

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS CJP
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
III

DISCIPLINE
(8) In determining the appropriate level of discipline, we consider several
factors, including the following: number of incidents of misconduct, the
seriousness of the misconduct, whether the judge has prior discipline, whether
the judge acknowledges and appreciates the impropriety of his actions, the
impact of the misconduct on the judicial system, and the judge’s reputation
for administering his or her duties in a fair, impartial, and dignifed manner.
(Policy Declarations of Com. on Jud. Performance, policy 7.1 [nonexclusive
factors relevant to sanctions]; e.g., Ross, supra, 49 Cal.4th CJP Supp. at
p. 138.)

Weighing heavily in aggravation is Judge Mills’s history of prior disci-
pline. This is not the first time Judge Mills has been disciplined for using his
judicial position to bypass proper channels on behalf of his son. In 2011, he
received an advisory letter for, after signing a search warrant, allowing his
son to accompany a police officer in executing the warrant without going
through the ordinary application process for going on a ride-along.

In addition, Judge Mills received an advisory letter in 2008 for improperly
conditioning a defendant’s release in a misdemeanor probation revocation
proceeding on posting bail for the improper purpose of collecting restitution.
In 2006, he was publicly admonished for engaging in improper ex parte
discussions and for a pattern of making discourteous, sarcastic, and demean-
ing comments to attorneys and litigants appearing before him. And, in 2001,
he received a private admonishment for remarks suggesting a lack of
impartiality and attempting to obtain a guilty plea from a defendant despite
statements from the defendant indicating he wanted counsel.

Another aggravating factor is Judge Mills’s failure to acknowledge or
appreciate the impropriety of his actions. At the hearing before the special
masters and in his briefs to the commission, he insisted that he did nothing
improper. During his oral argument before the commission, Judge Mills
stated that, in hindsight, he realizes he should not have met with the pro
tempore judge in chambers. However, he immediately followed this acknowl-
edgement with excuses and justifications for his conduct. The judge also
defected questions about the public perception of his actions by questioning
Ms. Sims’s credibility and recollection of the time events occurred. His
presentation before the commission leaves us with no confidence that he
appreciates the impropriety of his actions.

(9) “A judge’s failure to appreciate or admit to the impropriety of his or
her acts indicates a lack of capacity to reform.” (Platt, supra, 48 Cal.4th CJP

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]

Supp. at p. 248; see Fletcher v. Commission on Judicial Performance (1998)
19 Cal.4th 865, 920–921 [81 Cal.Rptr.2d 58, 968 P.2d 958]; Kloepfer v.
Commission on Judicial Performance (1989) 49 Cal.3d 826, 866 [264
Cal.Rptr. 100, 782 P.2d 239].) The fact that Judge Mills was advised by the
commission in February 2011 that it is improper to use his judicial position to
bypass normal procedures for the beneft of a family member makes his
failure to recognize the impropriety of his actions in October 2011 all the
more troubling. (See Inquiry Concerning Van Voorhis (2003) 48 Cal.4th CJP
Supp. 257, 301–302; Doan v. Commission on Judicial Performance (1995) 11
Cal.4th 294, 339–340 [45 Cal.Rptr.2d 254, 902 P.2d 272]; McCullough v.
Commission on Judicial Performance (1989) 49 Cal.3d 186, 199 [260
Cal.Rptr. 557, 776 P.2d 259] [failure to respond to prior discipline “evidences
a lack of regard for the Commission, [the Supreme Court] and his obligations
as a judge”].)

Judge Mills’s misconduct is further aggravated by the fact that Ms. Sims
and Ms. Peters were his subordinates. The judge’s conduct and his subse-
quent response to the charges’ evidence a lack of sensitivity to the pressure he
implicitly placed on them by virtue of his judicial position. (See Sarmiento,
supra, No. 191 at p. 7.)

We have already discussed the adverse impact of Judge Mills’s conduct on
public confidence in the impartiality of the judicial system, which is another
important factor in our assessment of the appropriate sanction. In imposing
public discipline, we assure the public that using the influence of judicial
office to obtain an advantage, no matter how slight, in a legal matter
involving a family member or friend is impermissible.

In determining to issue a public admonishment, rather than a higher level
of discipline, we take into consideration that Judge Mills did not overtly
pressure Ms. Sims or Ms. Peters to facilitate the meeting in chambers and
told Ms. Peters to do what she wanted or words to that effect, and the
requested disposition was not more lenient than would likely have occurred if
the attorney had appeared in open court on behalf of the judge’s son.

Judge Salvador Sarmiento was censured pursuant to a stipulation in 2012 for communica-
tions with a commissioner in nonpublic areas of the courthouse concerning his wife’s traffic
ticket. While there are factual similarities with the present case, Judge Sarmiento’s conduct
was more aggravated. He approached the commissioner in the courthouse hallway and
followed her into her chambers where he asked her to address his wife’s $300 penalty
assessment fee and left the ticket on the commissioner’s desk. The judge admitted he was
seeking to have the commissioner vacate the fne—something that would not necessarily occur
through proper channels. Moreover, he returned to the commissioner’s chambers later that day
and told her nothing had been done on the ticket. The commissioner told the judge she would
give him a trial date, but did not vacate the fee.
We also consider in mitigation the masters’ fnding that Judge Mills was acting as

INQUIRY CONCERNING MILLS
57 Cal.4th CJP Supp. 1 [July 2013]
a concerned parent and the testimony of a number of character witnesses that
the judge is hardworking, conscientious, and fair.13
13 The character witnesses testifying on Judge Mills’s behalf were a retired Contra Costa
County Superior Court judge, a Contra Costa County Superior Court commissioner, the Contra
Costa County District Attorney, fve private attorneys, and one retired senior deputy district
attorney. One of the attorney witnesses was the attorney who participated in ex parte
communications with Judge Mills in the matter that resulted in the judge’s 2006 public
admonishment.

Balancing the foregoing factors leads us to the conclusion that a public
admonishment is the appropriate sanction.

IV

ORDER
Pursuant to the provisions of article VI, section 18 of the California
Constitution, we hereby impose this public admonishment.
Commission members Mr. Lawrence J. Simi, Hon. Erica R. Yew, Ms. Mary
Lou Aranguren, Anthony P. Capozzi, Esq., Nanci E. Nishimura, Esq., Hon.
Ignazio J. Ruvolo, Mr. Richard Simpson, Ms. Maya Dillard Smith, Ms. Sandra
Talcott, and Mr. Adam N. Torres voted in favor of all of the fndings and
conclusions expressed herein and in the foregoing order of a public admon-
ishment. Commission member Hon. Thomas M. Maddock was recused.


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