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Judge Defends Self Against Recall Effort

Jurisprudence: Nancy Wieben Stock and supporters rebut criticism of decisions in Simpson custody battle and another case.

April 16, 1997|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Calling her critics misguided and inaccurate, Orange County Judge Nancy Wieben Stock broke her silence Tuesday to respond to a recall effort begun when she granted O.J. Simpson custody of his children.

In a one-page signed statement, the Superior Court judge rebutted claims that she erred in the Simpson ruling or with a second controversial decision that returned two children in 1991 to an Anaheim woman who later shot and killed the children and herself.

"In the Simpson guardianship, Stock obeyed the law of parental preference in allowing the children to live with their father," the statement signed by Stock reads. "She did not have discretion to ignore the law."

While "public hatred" of Simpson made the decision unpopular, the statement says, should judges make "decisions based on public opinion or based on the law?"

An accompanying statement by Stock's supporters stresses that "every mental health expert" who evaluated the Simpson children recommended their father get immediate custody rather than their maternal grandparents, Juditha and Louis Brown of Dana Point.

Simpson, a former football superstar, was found not guilty in 1995 of charges that he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman. A subsequent civil jury found him liable in the slayings and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the victims' families.

Between those criminal and civil cases, Stock presided over the custody hearing for Sydney and Justin, then 11 and 8, who had been in the Browns' care since the slayings. Stock awarded him sole custody in December.

Critics, led by the Women's Progressive Alliance and supported by the Brown family, blasted Stock for not considering the murder charges or the civil verdict in her ruling.

The jurist's supporters defended her Tuesday by saying she was forbidden by law and procedure from considering the civil trial or delaying her ruling for that verdict. They also said custody attorneys for the Browns made only a late bid to enter evidence "they did not have" regarding the murder charges.

On Tuesday, Denise Brown said her family would continue to rail against Stock. The sister of Nicole Brown Simpson said Stock's statement was an attempt to dodge culpability.

"What else can she do? I don't know how she can sleep at night," Brown said. "The way she handled the [Simpson custody] case was a farce. . . . She's also as responsible for the deaths of those two [Kyle] kids as the mother."

In January, a month after the Simpson custody ruling, the bodies of Marcia Amsden-Kyle, a 38-year-old Anaheim woman, and her two children were discovered in a car parked along a remote Riverside road. Authorities said the despondent mother shot Storm Cameron Kyle, 9, and Tarah Leigh Kyle, 7, and turned the gun on herself.

When critics found out that Stock granted Amsden-Kyle joint custody of the children in 1991, a nascent recall effort gained momentum. Supporters of the recall must gather 138,003 signatures from registered Orange County voters to place the issue on a ballot.

Tammy Bruce, president of the Los Angeles-based Women's Progressive Alliance and leader of the recall effort, said Stock's response was riddled with misleading statements.

In the statement by Stock's supporters, they list and rebut eight "WPA myths" about the two controversial custody cases.

Among their responses, they pointed out that Stock was among four judges who presided over custody proceedings for the Kyle children, and the only one who did not give sole custody to the mother. They also said she was the only judge who found "high risk" in giving the mother full custody.

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