Gates Says Judge Should Not Rule on Department Cases
Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates said Thursday that Harbor Municipal Judge Russell A. Bostrom should be disqualified from hearing cases involving the Sheriff’s Department because of Bostrom’s alleged involvement in the campaign of Linda Lea Calligan, who is running against Gates in June.
Gates said Bostrom should voluntarily disqualify himself to avoid a conflict of interest. If Bostrom refuses, Gates said he will ask the district attorney’s office to seek the disqualification in order to assure victims and suspects “a fair shake.”
Bostrom could not be reached for comment.
However, Calligan, an Orange County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, and her campaign manager said Bostrom has no official role in the Calligan campaign except to offer political advice.
The California Code of Judicial Conduct says a judge should refrain from political activity, including endorsement of candidates. The code says all judges, except for those retired, working part time or acting as judge pro tem, should comply.
Before he became a Municipal Court judge, Bostrom was attorney for the fledgling Orange County Deputy Sheriffs’ Assn., which clashed with Gates during his reelection campaign in 1978. That year, Gates was forced into a runoff election by Lauren Rusk, a sheriff’s sergeant supported by the association. But Gates won reelection handily.
Bostrom had considered running against Gates this year but decided against it, according to Calligan’s campaign manager, Robin Reisdorf. Before managing Calligan’s campaign, Reisdorf worked as an unpaid clerk for Bostrom, she said.
Reisdorf said she would have “been interested in helping” Bostrom had he chosen to oppose Gates. But when Bostrom decided not to run, Reisdorf said, he “told me about . . . Linda” Calligan, who “needed some people that were interested in helping with her campaign.”
Calligan said Bostrom has not endorsed her and has no official standing in the campaign other than as a very good friend “giving me political advice.”
“He tells me: ‘That’s a good idea (or), no, don’t bother with that.’ ”
This week, Calligan reported receiving $8,775 in contributions, including $2,500 from William Yacobozzi Jr., who was a Bostrom law firm associate before Bostrom became a judge.
“Had he (Bostrom) run, those people would have supported him,” Calligan said.
Reisdorf said that when Bostrom has appeared at campaign functions, he has been there to accompany her rather than Calligan.
“We do a lot of things together,” she said.
Bostrom has no role in the campaign, she said, “because he is a judge and the canons (of the Code of Judicial Conduct) prevent him from being involved. . . .”
But Gates was adamant Thursday that he believes that Bostrom is “overtly” involved in the Calligan campaign.
Gates said Bostrom has openly associated himself with Calligan’s candidacy, “campaigning for her and taking (her) everywhere . . . in the last couple of weeks. I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on. . . .”
‘Question the Ethics’
“For a sitting judge in this county to do something like that is appalling to me,” Gates said. “And I’m sure if the judges all knew, it would be appalling to them. I have to question the ethics. . . .
“There’s obviously very strong biased feelings exhibited . . . by Mr. Bostrom against me and this department.”
Gates suggested that Bostrom’s involvement with the Calligan campaign may run afoul of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Among other things, Canon 7 of the code says a judge “should not make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office.”
Hicks Declines Comment
Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks on Thursday declined to comment on the matter until he has received a formal request from Gates. However, Hicks said that in his 20 years as district attorney he can recall no other cases in which law-enforcement officials have sought the disqualification of a judge because of such political activity.
Harbor Court Presiding Judge Brian R. Carter said he cannot comment on the matter until the district attorney’s office makes a request to have Bostrom disqualified.
Carter said violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct are investigated by the state Judicial Performance Commission, but only after receiving formal complaints. Gates said Thursday that he has no plans for filing such a complaint.