Surrounded by placards listing her accomplishments and buoyed by a publicity packet in which she calls herself one of the “most commended judges on the court,” Municipal Court Presiding Judge Maxine F. Thomas on Monday assailed the jurists critical of her as a “select few” who seek to discredit her.
Speaking at a press conference called to answer charges that she is using the Los Angeles Municipal Court system to further her election bid for Superior Court in June, Thomas claimed support from almost 90% of the court’s 80 judges.
“If it were not for the election, we would not be here today,” Thomas said in denying all charges of impropriety.
“There are people who are resistant to change, people who feel we should leave things exactly where they are. . . . It’s a very small percentage.”
Thomas, under intense criticism in recent weeks from numerous colleagues who claim she has been derelict in her duties, countered by saying the court is functioning well under her guidance, especially in the criminal area. She pointed to a placard that showed more cases are being disposed of before trial despite an increased caseload.
“The accusations are basically ill-founded because the Municipal Court is indeed running well,” she said. “This is a political year. After announcing my candidacy . . . there was an attempt to find anything I’d done wrong.”
Some jurists, however, continued to insist Monday that Thomas has the support of fewer than half the judges in the system.
“I can only think of 10 who are staunch supporters,” one judge said. “A majority of judges still feel she has . . . used the court for her personal benefit. . . . A number of judges who voted for her (for presiding judge) would never vote for her today.”
The judges claim she has rewarded her friends on the court with the best bench assignments, has neglected many of her duties to campaign for the higher court and has misused her office by using her bailiff as a personal chauffeur. The same critics called her highly publicized formal installation ceremony last January a “coronation.” The event, the first held by a presiding judge in the court’s history, cost almost $3,000.
Although Thomas has conceded that the installation drew complaints, she said, “I am not ashamed nor will I apologize for . . . a ceremony that brought all elements of law enforcement as well as the community together to demonstrate their pride and commitment to this great institution.” To diffuse further criticism, Thomas said she plans to contribute $2,400 to establish an annual installation fund.
‘More Than Lip Service’
“I’m willing to commit more than lip service to ensuring that our courts are held in high esteem,” she added.
Continuing that she is “confident that the public will see these accusations for what they are and not harbor any bad feelings” for the court, Thomas promised to complete her one-year term as presiding judge.
She said she sees no need to conduct a “straw vote” of confidence as some judges have suggested.
“I have the vote of confidence necessary from my colleagues to carry on,” Thomas said.