Retired Jurist to Hear Hospital Project Suit


A lawsuit challenging a planned expansion of the Ventura County Medical Center was assigned to a retired appellate justice Friday after two sitting jurists disqualified themselves from the case.

Justice Richard Abbe of Santa Barbara is the fifth judge to be assigned to the lawsuit, in which Community Memorial Hospital accuses the county medical center of illegally competing for privately insured patients.

Abbe’s assignment came the same week that Superior Court Judges Barbara A. Lane and William L. Peck removed themselves from the case. Peck sits on a committee that raises money for Community Memorial, said attorney John E. McDermott, who represents the hospital.


Lane disqualified herself for unknown reasons. Earlier, Community Memorial removed Superior Court Judge Joe Hadden from the case because he serves with two county supervisors on the board of an organization that receives county funding, McDermott said.

Superior Court Judge Frederick A. Jones was taken off the case for medical reasons.

A primary focus of the lawsuit is a new policy allowing county employees to go to county facilities for hospitalization and basic treatment. Community Memorial, which sits three blocks from the medical center on Loma Vista Road in Ventura, says it has lost patients because of that policy.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Melinda A. Johnson said she believes Abbe will be able to stay with the case.

“I can’t imagine any conflict he could have,” she said. “He lives in Santa Barbara, he has no county health insurance.”

Abbe is a retired justice with the 2nd District of the State Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from Ventura County. He was also called in to hear a case involving a ballot initiative for the proposed Weldon Canyon landfill.