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Bird's Ethics Questioned in Vote to Review Case

September 04, 1986|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Calling her conduct a breach in "judicial integrity," Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) on Wednesday charged that Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird violated a judicial conduct code when she voted to review a case in which the California Bar Assn. and her campaign chairman are defendants.

"Her action in voting for bringing this case up to the Supreme Court is unethical and improper," Davis told reporters at a press conference.

The former Los Angeles police chief said he has asked the state Commission on Judicial Performance to investigate.

However, Bird's defenders contend that Davis is unfairly targeting the chief justice in an effort to hurt her bid to win reconfirmation on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"The charges are absolutely false. His (Davis') attack is blatantly political and the latest in the continuing campaign to intimidate her," said Bird's campaign chairman, Los Angeles attorney Anthony Murray.

Murray, who is a defendant in the case, was president of the Bar at the time its officials launched a "public education program," which critics charged supported confirmation of the four justices on the 1982 ballot.

Last Thursday, Bird and three other justices voted to review of a State Court of Appeals decision ruling that Bar officials violated members' constitutional rights when they used mandatory Bar dues to support the 1982 voter confirmation of Justices Allen E. Broussard, Cruz Reynoso and now-retired Justices Frank K. Richardson and Otto M. Kaus.

The Bar's support of the justices came mainly in the form of speakers provided to groups around the state.

In a May ruling, the Appellate Court in Sacramento stated that the Bar had no authority to use member dues to finance "purely political or ideological acitivities."

Davis contended that Bird should have refrained from voting for review since one issue of the case--whether the Bar should take a stand in reconfirmation elections--directly affects Bird, who is facing a tough battle for reconfirmation.

"In light of Mr. Murray's various roles . . . the Chief Justice's impartiality might reasonably be questioned," Davis wrote in a Sept. 2 letter to the Commission on Judicial Performance, in which he requested a commission investigation on Bird's action. Commission Director Jack Frankel refused comment on the Davis request.

Bird supporters, however, point out that two other Justices who voted for the review--Stanley Mosk and Joseph R. Grodin--also face reconfirmation this November, and were not targeted by Davis.

"Why did they single her out?" asked Steven M. Glazer, communications director for the Committee to Conserve the Courts. "She was not on the ballot in 1982. These guys are hypocrites."

Gary Mullen, legal counsel for Davis said Bird was targeted mainly because of her affiliation to Murray.

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