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L.A. Judge Is Removed From Bench

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles judge who appeared on a television reality show pilot to arbitrate an erotic dancer’s claim against a San Diego adult club was removed from the bench Wednesday for ethical breaches.

Judge Kevin A. Ross -- the eighth California judge removed since 1995 -- was found to have “marketed himself as a judge in hopes that he then could leave the bench for a more lucrative career in television.”

The Commission on Judicial Performance also held that Ross had “trampled” on the rights of three defendants, including a woman he jailed for 2 1/2 days after tacking extra charges on to her case.

Ross improperly commented on a pending case on a public television show and lied in hearings and documents relating to his disciplinary charges, the commission found.

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Ross, an eight-year prosecutor, replaced a sitting judge in a contested election in 1998 to win his seat on the Inglewood Municipal Court. He was elevated to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2000 when the courts unified and most recently presided over traffic cases.

Ross had been privately sanctioned by the commission in February 2001 for abusing his authority and demeaning and humiliating defendants. Ross said he is reviewing the commission’s 72-page opinion. He has 90 days to ask the California Supreme Court to reconsider the action. He was not in court Wednesday.

“As I have previously indicated, I accept complete responsibility for those specific actions that did not exemplify the highest standards of judicial excellence,” Ross said in a written statement.

Victoria Henley, director-chief counsel, declined to comment. The 11-member commission, comprising three judges, two lawyers and six private citizens, has the sole authority for disciplining state judges. Under the state constitution, they may admonish, censure or remove a judge from office for violating judicial canon.

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In the latest case, the commission instituted disciplinary action in May 2004 after learning that Ross had discussed a juvenile case pending in his courtroom on the “Life & Times Tonight” show on KCET-TV public television in 2001. The commission held that he improperly disclosed confidential information during the discussion and improperly commented on another pending case in 2002.

That same year Ross appeared in two pilot episodes for a reality show called “Mobile Court,” which decided small-claims cases at the scenes of disputes. The show never aired, but sitting judges are forbidden from arbitrating disputes outside the public court system. Other TV judges, such as Judge Judy, are retired.

In an episode entitled “Beauty and the Beast,” an erotic dancer who appeared under the stage name Angel Cassidy claimed that a security guard, known as “Wolverine,” had cheated her out of prize money by disqualifying her from a wet T-shirt contest.

Ross ruled inside a Los Angeles strip club with “zebra carpet, neon, mirrors, pole” and asked the plaintiff for details of the contest, the commission said in its ruling.

The commission also found Ross had misled the commission and fabricated stories during his defense.

The commission faulted Ross for violating the rights of Debbie Fuentes, who argued in a ticket case that she was a victim of mistaken identity. Ross decided she was lying, added a misdemeanor count of knowingly providing false evidence to a peace officer, entered a “not guilty” plea on Fuentes’ behalf and put her in jail, without advising her of the new charge or her constitutional rights to have a hearing and a lawyer present, the commission found.

This case, the commission concluded, “shows a shocking abuse of power and disregard of fundamental rights.”


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