Unhappy public defenders in Lancaster's Antelope Municipal Court reportedly have begun an unofficial boycott against Judge William Seelicke, forcing their cases to be shifted elsewhere and causing what one official termed "havoc" in the courthouse.
Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Cooley said the public defenders began filing affidavits of prejudice last week against Seelicke to force their cases to be transferred to another courtroom.
"They're using that to basically eliminate them from his court," Cooley said. "It's certainly kind of wreaking havoc." He said because of the boycott his prosecutors have had to work late hours in the court that was receiving Seelicke's cases. But he was unable to say how many cases had been shifted to date.
Cooley said he believes the public defenders are upset at Seelicke's reputation for giving tough sentences.
Presiding Judge Richard Spann of the Antelope Municipal Court said he and its other four judges, including Seelicke, plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the apparent dispute. But Spann downplayed the impact of the boycott and promised a quick resolution, saying, "I don't think it's a major problem."
The head county public defender in Lancaster, Charles Klum, did not return phone calls Thursday and Seelicke, a former county district attorney, was reported to be away at a judicial seminar and could not be reached for comment.
A top administrator in the public defender's office said his attorneys believe the judge is biased in favor of prosecutors and abuses court staff.
Kenneth Green, bureau chief of the public defender's branch and area offices, accused Seelicke of frequently acting as "the second D.A. in the court" by overtly favoring the prosecution and forcing public defenders to work long hours beyond their shifts even though they get no overtime.
"We're very upset about that. It's not right and it's not decent," Green said, adding that he has heard of similar complaints by court reporters and bailiffs who work for Seelicke. "Maybe he has to go back to judges' college," Green said.
Seelicke is one of two judges in the courthouse who handles misdemeanor criminal cases involving defendants who are in custody. He headed the district attorney's Lancaster office from 1976 until his appointment as a judge in 1980. Green insisted that office management did not initiate or sanction a formal campaign against the judge.
An organized campaign against a judge occurred last year in Van Nuys.
For the first time then in the history of the office, county public defenders used the affidavit procedure to stage a nine-month boycott against Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Raymond Mireles. After the boycott ended last in September, Mireles was transferred to a new assignment downtown.