An effort to recall the judge who awarded O.J. Simpson custody of his children has failed.
Organizers gathering signatures for the recall of Orange County Superior Court Judge Nancy Wieben Stock fell "just short" of the minimum needed by Wednesday to put the issue on a special election ballot, organizer Tammy Bruce said.
The Los Angeles-based Women's Progressive Alliance initiated the recall effort in April after Stock awarded custody to Simpson, who had been acquitted of murdering the children's mother. The group also was enraged by a case in which a mother to whom Stock had awarded joint custody of two children later killed them, her boyfriend and herself.
Stock and her supporters steadfastly maintained that both decisions were within the law and that the recall effort undermined the independence of the judiciary.
Stock could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But Judi Curtin, president of the family law section of the Orange County Bar Assn. and an opponent of the recall, expressed satisfaction at the outcome.
"I would say that the failed recall effort reinforces and restores my faith in the legal and judicial system," she said. "I think it says an inordinate amount about Judge Stock and her character, and that the average voter supports her. It confirms to me that the judiciary has to be independent and free from special interest group pressure."
Franz Miller, president of the Orange County Bar Assn., said in a written statement, "We were initially concerned that Judge Nancy Stock, who has enjoyed an excellent reputation as a hard-working, diligent and unbiased judge, might be caught up in the throes of the O.J. sensationalism." But the failure of the recall effort, she said, shows that residents "support the fundamental principles of the Constitution, which require that judges be allowed to follow the law without fear of reprisals or threats. . . ."
Bruce would not say how close her group came to gathering the required 138,000 signatures due by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"We were close," she said, attributing the failure to the deadline and the fact that it was largely a volunteer effort. "If we'd had another four to six weeks, the scenario would have been different."
Bruce said her group plans to initiate a project called Judge Watch, which will place observers in many of Orange County's courtrooms.
"We have close to 500 people in Orange County who came to us on this project," she said. "These individuals will be utilized as activists and volunteers; we will be watching for decision making that really exemplifies a judiciary that is out of touch."
The group will seek to publicize judicial decisions it considers biased, she said.
"We've got to bring participation in the system back," Bruce said. "This will remind us that the judicial system is not a bunch of independent Gods who are untouchable. It's being kept in a cloak of secrecy, and you can't make good election decisions when you don't have good information. We are going to change that nationwide, beginning in Orange County."