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Two California judges censured for having sex in their courthouses

Orange County, Kern County judges censured for having sex in chambers

Two California judges -- one in Orange County, the other in Kern County -- were publicly censured Tuesday by a judicial oversight panel for having sex with women inside their respective chambers.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner was censured for a host of improprieties, including having sex in his chambers and failing to disqualify himself from a case involving a longtime friend, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance, an oversight board that investigates judicial misconduct.

“Engaging in sexual intercourse in the courthouse is the height of irresponsible and improper behavior by a judge,” the commission wrote in its decision to censure.

A public censure is the most severe form of discipline the commission can issue outside of removing a judge from the bench. The commission is made up of three judges, two lawyers and six members of the public.

In its censure, the commission said Steiner’s action disrespected the court’s dignity and decorum, tarnished his office in the eyes of the public and potentially subjected court employees who might become aware of the "libidinous conduct" to a hostile work environment.

Steiner also called the Orange County district attorney's office about the job application for one of the women he had sex with, according to the commission.

In March 2013, The Times reported that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department was investigating Steiner for possibly having sex in his courthouse chambers. The probe included searching Steiner’s office and recovering DNA evidence.

In Central California, Kern County Superior Court judge Cory Woodward was censured for having sex with his married clerk in his chambers and lying to the court’s chief executive about it.

According to the commission, Woodward was sleeping with his courtroom clerk in 2012 and 2013 and refused to reassign her despite repeated suggestions by coworkers. Woodward also sent the clerk sexual notes during court proceedings, the commission found.

The only reason Woodward wasn't kicked off the bench was because he cooperated with investigators, admitted wrongdoing and showed “great remorse and contrition.”

The attorney representing both judges, Paul S. Meyer, said in a statement Tuesday that his clients had cooperated fully with the investigation and apologized for their behavior.

The judges, he added, appreciated the "thorough review and fair findings in this matter.”

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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