Embattled Orange County Superior Court Judge Nancy Wieben Stock made a rare public appearance Tuesday but remained silent on the recall effort being waged against her after the judge awarded O.J. Simpson custody of his two youngest children.
Wieben Stock, appearing relaxed and smiling often, did not speak during her appearance at an Orange County Women Lawyers Assn. luncheon where judges and lawyers urged a roomful of their colleagues to help the judge survive the attempt to drive her out of office.
"We have to be free to do our jobs," said Orange County Superior Court Judge William F. McDonald, president of the California Judges Assn. "We should not have to step back and take a public opinion poll before we decide anything."
Wieben Stock quietly slipped out of the room before the public reading of a resolution supporting her during the recall effort. The resolution reaffirmed the organization's choice of Wieben Stock as Judge of the Year in 1995.
Simpson's two youngest children had been living with their grandparents in Dana Point while the former football great fought charges he killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman. After his acquittal, Simpson successfully sought custody of the youngsters.
In addition to the Simpson ruling, Wieben Stock is also under fire for her 1991 decision to award joint custody of two children to their mother, Marcia Amsden-Kyle of Anaheim, who police said in January shot the children to death before killing herself. Police also said she killed her boyfriend, Matthew Stephen Bailey.
In one of three speeches given at the luncheon, Orange County Bar Assn. President Franz Miller stressed the importance of an "independent judiciary" and added that the legal community is obliged to stand behind Wieben Stock since judges are barred from publicly defending their rulings.
Tammy Bruce, president of the group spearheading the recall effort, characterized the luncheon as "a bunch of lawyers protecting one of their own."
Bruce's group, the Los Angeles-based Women's Progress Alliance, on Friday handed Wieben Stock a notice of intent to recall her.
Orange County Registrar of Voters Rosalyn Lever said Tuesday that Wieben Stock cannot legally be served with the paperwork until April 6 because the judge's current term in office began Jan. 6, and a person must be in office at least 90 days before they can receive a recall notice.
Bruce said she disagreed with that "interpretation" but plans on serving the judge again next month.
"We are more than looking forward to having a little extra organizing time," she said.