In a rare disciplinary action, U.S. District Judge A. Andrew Hauk of Los Angeles has been barred by a judicial council from hearing any more civil rights cases involving police brutality after an investigation of the judge's controversial commentary from the bench.
The judicial council of the U.S. 9th Circuit also has imposed other discipline on Hauk, according to a court document, but the nature of that discipline was not revealed in the document.
"I would say this is a unique order and it represents an expression of the council's lack of confidence in the judge's ability to preside in federal civil rights cases," said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, an expert on judicial discipline.
The action was called extraordinary by University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, who has written a book on the 9th Circuit. "To some extent it reflects a new sensitivity on the part of federal judges to public perceptions of the courts. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad."
Attorneys representing plaintiffs who sue law enforcement agencies in brutality cases applauded the council's decision, but said stiffer action should have been taken.
"I think it's just splendid. . . . He certainly has a bias against civil rights plaintiffs," said veteran Los Angeles lawyer Hugh Manes.
"This is long overdue," added Donald W. Cook, a Los Angeles lawyer who specializes in representing people bitten by police dogs and is one of two attorneys Hauk, 81, ordered jailed in recent years after disputes arose in his courtroom in brutality cases.
In recent years, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed Hauk's decisions in several police brutality cases. And last year, in one of these cases, a panel of 9th Circuit judges ruled that a retrial should be conducted by another judge because Hauk's remarks during the original trial exhibited "a pro-police bias with regard to claims of police brutality" against the Los Angeles Police Department.
Long a figure of controversy, Hauk has frequently been criticized by attorneys and representatives of women's and minority organizations for what they said was intemperate and unpredictable courtroom behavior.
Hauk did not return a call seeking comment.
The action of the 9th Circuit council stemmed from two complaints lodged against Hauk in 1993, according to a court document obtained by The Times. (The nine-member council is the governing body of the 9th Circuit, a judicial region that encompasses nine western states and the Pacific trust territories. The council is headed by J. Clifford Wallace, chief judge of the 9th Circuit, and includes four other appellate judges, among them Alex Kozinski of Pasadena, and four federal trial judges, among them W. Matthew Byrne Jr. of Los Angeles.)
Curiously, neither of the cases that led to the council's action involved a police misconduct case.
In July, Wallace issued an order appointing a special committee of three judges to investigate charges that Hauk made intemperate and abusive remarks from the bench, as well as charges that he is unable to comprehend arguments presented to him.
One of the complainants, Los Angeles literary agent Julian Ayrs, also alleged that Hauk was prejudiced against him because he was representing himself.
Among other things, Hauk threatened to jail Ayrs twice and told him that "anybody who represents themself has a fool for a client," according to a transcript of a 1992 hearing.
Hauk also belittled Ayrs' efforts to have action taken against a federal bankruptcy judge who Ayrs contended had treated him unfairly. "If you want to be sort of an American-Spanish conquistador known as Don Quixote, you do it, but . . . you are spinning your wheels for nothing."
The identity of the second complainant could not be determined. Sources said that complaint also grew out of a civil suit in which a plaintiff represented himself.
The decision of the 9th Circuit council states that during a discussion of the charges with Chief Judge Wallace, Hauk was "very penitent and acknowledged the inappropriateness of his conduct."
Hauk, according to the decision, has promised to be careful to avoid such conduct in future cases.
Additionally, "the council has confirmed and adopted the judge's voluntary decision not to accept" police brutality cases "because it was mutually agreed that these cases have caused the most problems for the judge."
However, the decision states that "there is no evidence that the judge is disabled and unable to comprehend charges against him."
The council also concluded that there was no evidence that Hauk was prejudiced against Ayrs.
Ayrs said he was outraged by the decision. He said the council's findings in regard to his allegations were sloppy and ludicrous.