The state judicial discipline agency issued a "severe public censure" against San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep on Wednesday, stopping just short of removing him from the bench.
The punishment is the second most serious that the Commission on Judicial Performance can assess against a judge. Kreep came close to losing his seat on the bench, with four of the 10 commissioners voting for removal.
Kreep was elected to the bench by a narrow margin in 2012. He had spent decades as a prominent lawyer in conservative legal causes, and was perhaps best known for his work on "birther" lawsuits that challenged the citizenship of President Obama and his eligibility for office.
The commission leveled 20 charges of misconduct against Kreep, most of which related to his judicial campaign and his first year on the bench in San Diego Superior Court.
The charges alleged that Kreep made a string of inappropriate comments to lawyers, litigants and court staff while on the bench, including some aimed at female attorneys with the San Diego County Public Defender's Office and San Diego City Attorney's Office. He commented on their appearance, ethnicity and used nicknames to refer to them, among other things.
The commission also contended Kreep misrepresented his role in three organizations on his campaign website during his 2012 campaign, and violated judicial rules by engaging in political campaigning for a nonjudicial office when he solicited support and money opposing Obama's re-election.
"This decision is based largely on Judge Kreep's pervasive pattern of misconduct evidencing a lack of sensitivity to the adverse impact of his conduct on others and the public's esteem for the judiciary, and his failure to appreciate and accept the impropriety of some of his misconduct," the decision said.
But the commission said that while the findings of misconduct might warrant removal, it decided not to do so in this case because most of the violations occurred early on in his tenure. Kreep's demeanor and performance have improved and he has worked to change his behavior.
Kreep did not respond to a request for comment.