Domestic Violence and the San Diego Courts‏

by Shaker Maud

[Trigger warning for discussion of domestic violence.]

Via Sign On San Diego, the online presence of San Diego's daily paper, comes this story about a Superior Court judge, DeAnn Salcido, who has taken the extraordinary step of seeking a court order specifically instructing her supervising judge, Peter Deddeh, and her fellow justices, to impose all conditions of probation on domestic violence offenders which are required by California state law.

Because, according to Judge Salcido, they are not doing so.

There is a lot of important information in this story.

- A Superior Court justice alleges that other Superior Court judges are failing to impose all the conditions of probation which they are required to by law.

- Judges are waiving these legally-mandated probation conditions, she says, in regard to a specific type of offender: perpetrators of domestic violence.

- Judge Salcido further alleges that her own insistence on following the law has lead to harassment and retaliation from a supervising judge. She says that Judge "Deddeh became increasingly upset with her and retaliated by ordering her to get his permission before asking clerks to make copies of some court papers, which she said limited her ability to control her court calendar."

- The specific conditions of probation which other judges are failing to impose, including requiring probationers to take a one-year course on domestic violence, issuing orders into a statewide database intended to provide people with protection from perpetrators, and ordering defendants to relinquish any firearms they own. Judge Salcido says that defendants who are permitted to plead to charges other than specific domestic violence charges are being sentenced merely to twelve-hour courses and given no conditions related to protective orders or firearms.

- The nature of the disagreement between the justices as to what the law requires. In her court filing, Judge Salcido states that the law requires judges to consider whether the relationship between the defendant and the victim is one which is covered by the standards defined in domestic violence laws, i.e. co-habitant, former spouse, those who have been dating, etc . If so, Judge Salcido contends, then even if the defendant is allowed to plead to a charge other than domestic violence, such as disturbing the peace, all the conditions of probation in domestic violence cases must be imposed.

- That a "longtime defense attorney" says, "Defense attorneys will often negotiate plea agreements to avoid those probation conditions" and that some judges consider the underlying relationship between defendant and victim, and others limit their consideration to the specific charge pled to. Judge Salcido "is known as" one of the former.

- That while other judges are refusing to comment publicly on this specific matter, one Superior Court judge, Fredric Link, defended Judge Deddeh, against whom Judge Salcido's allegations of failure to follow the law, harassment and retaliation were lodged, saying Deddeh is "one of the court's best judges." The story does not make clear whether Judge Deddeh is also the supervisor of the judge who publicly praised him, or whether Link is himself one of the judges potentially affected by the court order Judge Salcido is requesting.

Also, according to this story, "several judges contacted Friday were stunned at Salcido's move and privately critical of it." Anonymously. Apparently it did not occur to the reporter to inquire of any of the judges whose opinion he solicited of Judge Salcido's action and Judge Deddeh's character what conditions of probation they themselves impose in such cases.

- That the judge making these allegations is running for re-election in June. Another candidate is running to replace her, and he has been endorsed by a "conservative group called BetterCourtsNow". Judge Salcido said at the news conference on the courthouse steps, at which she announced filing her order with the court, that her court challenge is not related to the election.

I have listed these pieces of information in the order of what seems to me their importance and natural relationship to one another. The writer/editor(s) of the SignOn San Diego story began with the same first point I do above - diverging immediately thereafter. They began the second sentence with the information that Judge Salcido is running for election this year. In a news story you want to get the important information up front; in the minds of those who published this article, apparently, the fact that the judge who filed this complaint is running for election is a more urgent piece of information than any which followed.

It is true that where there are elections there is politics, and we have certainly seen this in the case of judges running for office. Still, the placement of that bit of information suggests that the writer or editors of this article were awfully eager to raise the suggestion that Judge Salcido's allegations were meant to be in aid of her chances in the election. I also note that, while they chose to print Judge Link's statement praising Judge Deddeh, we are given no information as to what other judge's impressions are of Judge Salcido's work. Given that she has alleged that other justices are not following the law, such an appraisal might not be positive, but we simply don't know.

Also, while the writer notes Justice Salcido's upcoming election and apparently asked the candidate opposing her for his views of the matter (he refused to comment, citing a rule that prohibits candidates from criticizing a sitting judge), we are given no information as to the gender make-up of the court, and whether any of the judges whose anonymous criticism of Judge Salcido's action are also women. Also, as previously noted, there is no notice taken of the possibility that any of the judges whose opinions on the matter were quoted may themselves be affected by the court order Judge Salcido is requesting, nor of what their own practice is in the imposition of probation conditions in such cases.

Related reading: The story Liss blogged about here did not take place in the same county, so does not involve the same judges. It is but one recent example of judges not taking domestic violence, or its victims, seriously.

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