Court Rejects Judge Kamins’ Bid to Preside in King Beating Case
A state appellate court refused Monday to reconsider a request from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Kamins that he be allowed to preside over the criminal trial of four LAPD officers charged in the beating of Rodney G. King.
In a terse, three-page order, a panel of judges from the 2nd District Court of Appeal cited three sworn declarations from its staff that indicated Kamins engaged in improper communications to the appeals court and that he had “abandoned his neutral position” in presiding over the case.
Kamins was originally removed from the King trial when defense attorneys successfully convinced the appeals court that the judge had improperly sent messages to prosecutors in the case.
And, when the appeals court ruled in favor of the defense attorneys, they added that Kamins also improperly sent communications to them as they were considering the request that he be removed.
Kamins, through Frederick Bennett, an assistant county counsel, has strongly denied making any improper communications to the appeals court. In his request for a rehearing, Bennett suggested that someone posing as Kamins may have called the appeals court in an attempt to discredit the judge.
In legal declarations released Monday, Valorie Thomas, a deputy clerk of the Court of Appeal, said that “a person identifying himself as Judge Kamins” called her on June 13. She said the caller “told me the court should review a certain legal citation which he gave me” in considering whether to allow Kamins to remain on the case.
In a second declaration, Masumi Gavinski, a senior deputy clerk for the appellate court, said she also received a phone call that same day “from a person identifying himself as Judge Kamins.”
She said the caller “seemed upset” when she read him an appeals court order halting the start of the trial until Kamins’ status as the King trial judge could be resolved.
“He then asked to speak to the justices in the division and requested their direct phone numbers,” Gavinski said. “I told him I could not transfer his call and that he should file his response in writing.”
Dorothy N. Burch, a senior judicial attorney in the appeals court, said in a third declaration that she learned from Thomas and Gavinski about the phone calls, and then passed that information on to the appellate court.
It was unclear whether Bennett, who could not be reached for comment, will appeal to a higher court Kamins’ request to remain on the case. Another judge has not been named to replace Kamins for the trial.
In earlier action, the appeals court ordered that the trial be moved outside of Los Angeles County because of the intense political fallout from the March 3 videotaped beating of King.