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Ethics Probe Targets Longtime Judge

Courts: Investigation involves misconduct in appointing defense lawyers. Jurist has denied any wrongdoing.

June 30, 1998|ANN W. O'NEILL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A longtime Los Angeles Superior Court judge is under formal investigation on allegations that he appointed lawyers with whom he had personal or financial ties to represent criminal defendants in his court.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance announced Monday that it has opened formal proceedings against Judge John Patrick Shook, 60.

According to the commission, the investigation involves "the judge's actions with respect to attorneys with whom the judge had financial or social relationships, including appointment of these attorneys to represent criminal defendants before the judge."

Although the commission did not provide details, Shook abruptly transferred two years ago to the downtown civil courthouse amid news reports that he had steered $100-an-hour appointments to members of Torrance's "old boys" network of criminal defense lawyers.

One of the lawyers who regularly appeared before Shook rented office space in Torrance from the judge and his wife--an arrangement that may have been violated the state Supreme Court's rules of judicial ethics, according to the reports.

At the time of his transfer, Shook denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer said Monday that the judge would have no comment until a formal written response is filed with the commission.

Shook received his law degree from Southwestern University in 1968, and spent 15 years in private practice before being appointed to the Compton Municipal Court to succeed Judge Cecil J. Mills in 1983.

Two years later, Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Shook to the Superior Court, and he spent most of his judicial career in Torrance. His transfer followed reports in the local newspaper, the Daily Breeze, that he had signed off on hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills from three local attorneys.

Shook's attorney, Jeffrey Gray of Torrance declined to comment. The judge has until July 13 to file a written response.

After the response is received, special masters appointed by the state Supreme Court will conduct a hearing. The masters will prepare a report of their findings for the commission, which consists of six members of the public, three judges and two lawyers.

The commission can take several steps if the allegations are proved. Disciplinary action could include removal, censure, or public admonishment, which can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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