A Santa Barbara County judge has been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and could face additional charges after allegedly brandishing a pistol during an argument with her roommate at their house near Solvang, officials said Friday.
Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall, assigned to the county's Lompoc courthouse, was arrested Dec. 21 after sheriff's deputies received an emergency call from her domestic partner, Deidra Dykeman, officials said.
Sgt. Phil Willis, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said laboratory tests Thursday showed that Hall's blood-alcohol content was .18 at the time of her arrest, more than twice California's legal limit of .08. She was arrested at gunpoint and handcuffed, Willis said. After being held for four hours at the department's Santa Ynez Valley station, she was released to her attorney, he said.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Christie Stanley said Friday that the laboratory tests support a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Whether any additional charges are filed will depend on completion of an investigation that is still underway, she said. Arraignment is set for Jan. 22.
Hall, 52, was appointed a Municipal Court judge in 1990 and was elevated to the Superior Court in 1998 when the two judicial systems were consolidated. She previously had served as a prosecutor in Shasta County for three years and as a deputy district attorney in Santa Barbara County for a decade.
According to court documents, Hall and Dykeman bought their Santa Ynez Valley home together and had been in a domestic partner relationship for about four years.
An application for a restraining order, sought by Dykeman to prevent the judge from returning to the house, said the two got into an argument during which Hall allegedly grabbed a .38-caliber handgun from a bedroom drawer and threatened to shoot one of the couple's two dogs.
Dykeman said Hall also broke a telephone when she first tried calling 911, pulled her hair and tried to follow her into their garage as she fled from the judge. Dykeman then ran from the house and Hall drove away a short time later, according to the restaining order request. The judge did not take the gun with her in the car, officials said.
Santa Barbara attorney William Gamble, who is representing Hall, said Friday that Hall is distraught over the situation and prepared to plead guilty to drunk driving to put a quick end to the issue. If additional charges are filed, she will contest them, he said.
"Judge Hall's 52 and she's never done anything wrong in her life," Gamble said. "She doesn't remember threatening to shoot one of the dogs, and she absolutely wouldn't have done something like that. She is a very gentle person. I think she has the gun for self-protection."
Gamble said that Hall has no record of alcohol-related trouble or legal problems of any kind. He said she had been feeling a lot of pressure in recent months because defense lawyers in the Lompoc area viewed her as too tough. "She is very strait-laced," he said.
If prosecutors decide to file only a drunk driving charge, Gamble said, a typical first-offense sentence in Santa Barbara County would be a fine of about $1,500, referral to a driving under the influence school and probation of up to three years. Pending resolution of the case, he said, the judge has been transferred from criminal work in Lompoc to civil duties in Santa Maria.
Hall was reelected to her position last year with 86% of the vote after a challenge from Santa Barbara County prosecutor Charles Biely, whose campaign to unseat her collapsed after the discovery of pornography on his workplace computer. Biely resigned from the district attorney's office and officially withdrew as a candidate, but could not get his name off the ballot.
At the time, Hall criticized Biely for embarassing the courts, commenting: "It's things like this that makes the public lose faith in the criminal justice system."