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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Rampart Judge Explains Why He Won't Step Aside

October 21, 2000

LOS ANGELES — U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess said Friday he doesn't believe he should disqualify himself from presiding over Rampart-related civil rights suits just because his wife is a Los Angeles County prosecutor.

In a notice sent to all lawyers suing on behalf of people who say they were framed by Los Angeles Rampart Division police officers, Feess said it is well known that he is married to Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah Kranze .

"The court does not believe this requires self-recusal and the court declines to take such action," Feess wrote.

While the 87 pending federal lawsuits mainly target Los Angeles police officers, several suits also name Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti and his staff as defendants.

Some plaintiffs accuse the district attorney's office of knowingly using fabricated evidence to send them to prison.

Feess invited lawyers to come forward if they have any information linking his wife to any aspect of the Rampart cases.

He said that any lawyer who feels Feess's marriage poses a conflict of interest should file a formal motion with the court to disqualify the jurist. The motion would be heard by another judge.

Feess also denied there is any conflict of interest because he served as deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission, which investigated the Los Angeles Police Department after the 1992 riots.

To date, there have been no formal demands for Feess to step down from the Rampart cases. He recently was assigned the task of supervising pretrial proceedings, including settlement talks, in all Rampart suits.

In an article last month in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Stephen Yagman, a Venice attorney who represents about 20 plaintiffs, criticized the judge for dismissing Garcetti as a defendant in three Rampart cases without acknowledging Feess' marriage to Kranze.

Yagman said Feess' conduct was a potential violation of federal judicial ethics.

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