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Suspended Judge Responds to Panel’s Charges

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Suspended Ventura County Superior Court Judge Robert Bradley has admitted some of the allegations of alcohol misuse filed against him by a state judicial panel, but in a written response he denied having a chronic drinking problem.

His attorney said Wednesday a short-lived, bad period of the jurist’s life shouldn’t end a 15-year career.

On Tuesday, the nine-member state Commission on Judicial Performance suspended Bradley pending a hearing later this spring. The commission ruled that the judge could not be trusted to remain sober.

However, his attorney, Thomas C. Brayton, said in a telephone interview that he thinks the most severe punishment Bradley should receive--if he stays sober--is public censure from the commission.

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A three-judge panel for the judicial commission is to rule on all six charges they filed against Bradley in a hearing scheduled for late May or June. The judges could remove him from office, an outcome that might mean Bradley could not serve in retirement as a temporary judge. That was his plan after his term ends in December, his lawyer said.

“Should he be penalized for a very bad, a very difficult 90-day period of his life by removal from the bench?” Brayton asked. “If he’s good at what he does and maintains his sobriety, he ought to be doing what he’s been doing for the last 15 years--something for which he has a good reputation.”

The response filed with the state commission Tuesday was Bradley’s answer to the panel’s six charges. Bradley admitted two instances of drunk driving, as well as showing up for work under the influence of alcohol, and requested a hearing to determine whether his conduct violated judicial ethics.

In the response, prepared by his attorney, Bradley denied that he had been “habitually intemperate.”

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He said he served as a judge for 15 years “with dedication, hard work and distinction, except that commencing Dec. 6, 1997, his conduct was negatively affected by alcohol.”

Bradley, 56, is halfway through a monthlong, in-patient alcohol treatment program in Port Hueneme. If he graduates from that program, Brayton said, his client will live for up to six more months in a “sober-living environment.”

The panel charged Bradley with six counts of willful misconduct in office, including persistent failure to perform his duties; habitual intemperance in the use of intoxicants or drugs; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute; improper action; and dereliction of duty. The judge was removed from the bench by his superiors in January after showing up for work drunk.

Bradley had asked to return to his duties after completing the alcohol program.

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"[The commission] is hypothesizing based upon the past,” Brayton said. “He may not stay sober, but our position is very simple: If he stays sober, that’s proof.”

Brayton said that in mid-May, Bradley would again make a formal request to return to his job.

In the four-page response to the commission, Bradley admitted lying to officers about the amount of alcohol he had consumed when he was pulled over for drunk driving on Dec. 6 and Jan 3. In one of the incidents, he admitted telling officers he was a judge and asking them to let him drive home.

After pleading guilty in both cases, Bradley served 30 days in jail and was placed on eight years probation.

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Bradley also admitted in the response that he was driven home in April or May 1997 by Ojai deputies after being pulled over for allegedly driving drunk. He did not remember a second such occasion last year, according to the response. He was not charged in either instance.


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