Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jaime Román has been admonished by state judicial commissioners who concluded Román’s conduct on the bench was “improper at a minimum,” for abusing his authority and violating due process rights in several cases he handled between 2010 and 2012.
Román, who now presides largely over criminal matters in Department 63 at the court, received the public admonishment this week from the Commission on Judicial Performance, according to information posted on the commission’s website.
Román was not present in court Thursday but returned to his downtown courtroom Friday.
The admonishment carries no fine or other sanction but becomes part of a jurist’s public record and can be considered in any future disciplinary case, said Victoria Henley, the commission’s director and chief counsel.
A public admonishment falls roughly midway on the scale of judicial commission disciplinary actions, between an advisory at the lowest end and removal from the bench, Henley said.
In a statement, Sacramento Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Culhane called Román a “hardworking public servant.”
“He takes his job seriously and has volunteered to handle many difficult assignments,” Culhane wrote. “Like everyone else, judges learn from their experiences. I have no doubt that Judge Román will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our community.”
At issue were three cases, including one involving a 2010 incident when Román ordered a man jailed on contempt charges after accusing the man of flashing an obscene gesture at a courtroom clerk as she administered the oath.
The man denied using the gesture, but Román sentenced him to three days’ custody without holding a contempt hearing in violation of the man’s due process rights, according to the commission’s findings.
Judges cannot use contempt powers to jail someone without following contempt procedures, including notifying the person who is being charged and providing the person the chance to speak, commissioners said in their report, released Monday, citing case law. In the same case, Román was found to have improperly sanctioned the man’s court-appointed counsel by imposing a monetary fine without giving the attorney proper notice or stating a basis for the sanction.
During a stint in family court, Román improperly issued awards in a 2012 case, granting motions that had never been made and determining the amounts of attorney’s fees and costs on his own without including the proper legal findings to support the awards.
Román admitted the mistake and corrected the errors immediately, according to the commission’s findings, but commissioners ruled the actions gave the appearance that the judge was not impartial.
He also was found to have violated the due process rights of a father in a 2012 child custody case by ordering him to surrender his daughter’s smartphone and tablet after a last-minute demand by the child’s mother that did not allow the father time to respond to the mother’s request.