Panel Assails Deukmejian Nominee for Appeal Court

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian began seeking a new appointee to the Fresno appeals court after the state Judicial Performance Commission called for censure of the governor's first choice, a Deukmejian spokesman said Monday.

The governor originally nominated Superior Court Judge Frank J. Creede Jr. to sit on the Court of Appeal in Fresno last year.

But by a 5-4 vote, the commission, which investigates misconduct by state judges, recommended in a report unsealed Monday that the state Supreme Court censure Creede for failing to decide 51 cases within the 90-day deadline.

State law requires that judges decide cases within three months after final arguments or give up their pay. Creede, who blamed clerical problems and the press of his administrative duties as presiding judge in Fresno, continued to draw his pay while failing to decide the cases.

'Anniversary Letters'

In its report, the commission said Creede failed to decide one case for 1,643 days, despite "anniversary letters" sent to him in three different years by the lawyers involved in the case.

The report attributed Creede's problem to his desire to issue "polished" opinions in cases, but added that he "overlooked his obligation to promptly decide his cases."

Creede worked evenings and weekends, the commission said, and occasionally issued opinions of up to 90 handwritten pages. The opinions then were typed by secretaries.

The commission rejected specific charges that Creede was guilty of failure or inability to perform his work, and willful misconduct. But the commission did conclude that his persistent failure to decide cases was "prejudicial to the administration of justice."

Deukmejian nominated Creede to the appellate bench not knowing that he had problems deciding cases quickly. At Creede's confirmation hearing last April, the state attorney general's office revealed that it learned of the problem in a background check of Creede. That discovery prompted the Commission on Judicial Appointments to put Creede's appointment on hold.

The appointments commission--composed of Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp, Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and Court of Appeal Justice George A. Brown--referred the case to the Judicial Performance Commission.

Creede announced that he was withdrawing his name during a press conference in Fresno on Friday because of the watchdog commission's finding. On Monday, Deukmejian's spokesman, Kevin Brett, said the governor is "moving as expeditiously as possible" to find a new nominee for the position.

Creede is the only one of 21 nominees by Deukmejian to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court who has not been confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

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