One man was cited for posting far-right memes on Facebook, railing against immigrants, gays and Muslims and claiming that former President Obama was trying to convert the nation to Islam.
The other was admonished multiple times for improper conduct and for making “discourteous, demeaning and belittling comments” in various court cases.
Both were longtime judicial officers in Kern and Contra Costa counties.
But not anymore.
A state judicial watchdog agency recently censured both men on the condition that neither of them ever run for or hold a judicial post again. It’s unusual for a judge to be censured and even rarer to be banned from the bench for life — the commission’s online database shows only 18 such instances since 1998.
On Tuesday, the Commission on Judicial Performance announced that Contra Costa County Judge Bruce Clayton Mills had been cited for willful misconduct stemming from three incidents in 2016. The panel said Mills, who retired on May 30 and had been disciplined multiple times over his 23-year career, was barred from ever holding office again “in order to protect the public and maintain confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system.”
In the most recent incidents, Mills communicated with a defense attorney about his client’s sentencing outside of the presence of prosecutors — which is improper — and then modified the defendant’s sentence based on the threat of litigation instead of the letter of the law, the commission said. In another instance, he improperly communicated with a prosecutor about his case before the court without the defense present, which is also prohibited.
The panel cited other improprieties:
—In 2013, Mills was publicly admonished for improperly speaking with the judge overseeing his son’s traffic infraction case.
—In 2006, he was publicly admonished for a series of improper communications in a criminal case, assuming the role of a prosecutor in a different case and engaging in a “pattern of making discourteous, demeaning and belittling comments in criminal cases,” the commission’s decision said.
—In 2001, he was privately admonished for making remarks suggesting a lack of impartiality and for attempting to obtain a guilty plea from a defendant who wanted an attorney.
Given “the judge’s failure to appreciate the impropriety of his conduct, and his lack of candor as evidenced by his shifting explanations for his conduct, the commission concluded that there was a strong likelihood that Judge Mills will engage in subsequent misconduct if he were to serve in a judicial capacity in the future,” the commission concluded.
Jim Murphy, Mills’ attorney, said his client was “a good guy” and that he was “extremely disappointed” in the commission’s decision. He said Mills is now seeking a career outside the law.
In the case of retired Kern County Court Commissioner Joseph Gianquinto, who began serving on the bench in December 2007, the state commission said that his social media posts undermined the public’s confidence in the judiciary and brought the office into disrepute. A court commissioner is similar to a judge, except they have less powers and handle mostly traffic tickets, family cases and arraignments.
The commission voted to censure Gianquinto on Aug. 22.
Commission documents outline dozens of Facebook posts Gianquinto published or shared in 2016 and 2017 that reflected “anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Native American sentiment, anti-gay marriage sentiment, a position on the controversial issue of shooting deaths by police officers, strong opposition to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, contrasting praise for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, an accusation that President Obama was trying to transform the United States from a Judeo-Christian nation into Islam, a lack of respect for the federal justice system and contempt for the poor.”
The commission pointed to numerous statements and memes Gianquinto shared through Facebook, where he identified himself as “Jj Gianquinto,” a Kern County employee, with a photo of himself included.
He claimed Obama was trying to convert the nation to Islam and that he “lost respect for the federal justice system” after Hillary Clinton was not prosecuted by the FBI.
On Jan. 30, 2017, Gianquinto posted an item that read, “For the Indian Rez that will not permit the wall built on 75 miles of border on their land — how about building the wall around that rez, fencing them into Mexico? That should please them.”
He shared a photo of a group of Muslim men with the words, “They suck the western welfare system dry, outbreed to become a majority, lobby for their own laws and takeover.” He also shared a post that called liberals “America’s cancer” and another that advocated arresting immigrant rights protesters.
When the court’s presiding judge raised concerns about the posts, Gianquinto attempted to take them down but failed because of a lack of technical prowess, the commission said. Regardless, the damage had been done, the panel concluded.
“Mr. Gianquinto’s conduct on Facebook was egregious, and is the type of conduct that inherently undermines public confidence in the judiciary and that brings the judicial office into disrepute,” the commission said
Gianquinto, who retired March 30, agreed to stay out of office in exchange for not being barred.