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San Bernardino County judge rebuked for crude gestures, improper remarks

A San Bernardino County judge who was disciplined a decade ago for making sexually suggestive comments and for other inappropriate conduct toward women was publicly admonished Tuesday for making crude gestures and improper remarks.

Among the incidents that led to his latest discipline, Superior Court Judge John B. Gibson displayed sarcasm and annoyance toward a female defense attorney during a hearing in May, according to the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance.

Gibson later spoke to the attorney in his chambers, showing irritation with her as he criticized a male lawyer who had appeared on her behalf at a hearing earlier in the day, the commission said. Gibson told the woman that the male lawyer was incompetent and went on to describe him as standing in court picking his nose. As part of the criticism, Gibson said either that the attorney was scratching his genitals or scratching his buttocks, according to the commission’s report.

Although his exact words were unclear, Gibson illustrated his remark with gestures, the commission said.

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The commission also faulted the judge for referring to a tall, thin female attorney with short hair as “Q-tip” and using gestures to mimic standing at a urinal while he spoke to a male and a female attorney in a court hallway near his chambers.

In its announcement of the discipline, the commission said it found that Gibson failed “to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”

Gibson, a 20-year veteran judge, referred calls to his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, who said his client cooperated with the commission and accepted its discipline.

“He regrets his insensitive statements and apologizes for his conduct in this matter,” Meyer said. “Judge Gibson also appreciates the many expressions of support for the excellence of his judicial work.”

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Meyer declined to comment further.

Commissioners noted that Gibson had been publicly admonished in 2000 for “similar insensitive and inappropriate conduct.”

That discipline was imposed after the commission concluded that Gibson made sexually suggestive comments to a female court employee and grabbed and kissed a female probation officer on the lips. In addition, Gibson allegedly wiggled his fingers through his robe in the area of his groin and said to a female court employee, “Say hello to Mr. Bobo.”

Also Tuesday, the commission publicly admonished Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Melissa N. Widdifield, saying she was charged in January with driving under the influence of alcohol. Widdifield allegedly drove her vehicle recklessly with a blood alcohol level of 0.09%. The legal limit is 0.08%.

In May, Widdifield pleaded no contest to reckless driving, according to the commission.

Widdifield did not respond to a request for comment.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

Times staff writer Victoria Kim contributed to this report.

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