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Panel Investigates Judge in Manhandling of Lawyer : Inquiry: Judge Raymond D. Mireles asked two officers to “bring me a piece” of a public defender.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Van Nuys Superior Court judge is under investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for giving an order which resulted in two police officers dragging a deputy public defender from another judge’s courtroom.

The commission Friday announced an investigation of Judge Raymond D. Mireles, 46, for a Nov. 6 incident in which Mireles asked two Los Angeles police officers appearing as witnesses in a drug case to bring Deputy Public Defender Howard C. Waco into his courtroom.

Witnesses said Mireles jokingly added the officers should “bring me a piece” or “body part” of Waco, the attorney for a defendant in Mireles’ court.

As shocked courtroom personnel and spectators looked on, the officers burst into the other courtroom, grabbed Waco as he waited to make an appearance, dragged him down a hall and pushed him through the door of Mireles’ courtroom, bruising Waco’s leg.

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Commission officials declined to provide details of the investigation or what prompted it.

But Waco and the public defender’s office had filed a complaint with the commission shortly after the incident. Waco said Friday that the commission “took heed of my letter and the letters from the private bar on my behalf, to see that justice is done.”

The commission--composed of five judges, two lawyers and two laymen--can privately admonish a judge for misconduct or publicly reprove him with his permission, said Cynthia Dorfman, the commission’s associate counsel.

More serious breaches of conduct are referred to the state Supreme Court with recommendations that a judge be publicly censured or removed, she said.

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At a hearing shortly after the incident, the officers apologized to the judge from whose courtroom Waco was yanked, and that judge decided not to pursue contempt-of-court proceedings against them. The Police Department said that henceforth it will turn over such tasks to the bailiffs who are assigned to each court.

Waco filed a civil rights suit against Mireles and the officers, but a federal judge ruled that Mireles had legal immunity for his actions.

Despite Mireles’ insistence that he did not mean his remarks to be taken literally, the public defender’s office launched a campaign to force Mireles’ reassignment by declaring that its lawyers would no longer appear before him.

Judicial officials declined to transfer Mireles, but took the unusual step of reassigning 107 cases in Mireles’ courtroom to other judges and assigning Mireles only cases in which no public defenders were involved.

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Mireles could not be reached for comment.


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