A 41-year-old man is asking the court for protection from his girlfriend's father, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who testified during a bitter child custody hearing that he would kill him. Judge James A. Kaddo testified in April that he would kill Fadi Nora because he didn't want the man near his three young grandchildren -- a remark the judge now says he regrets.
"It was a stupid thing to say, but I was a grandfather in tears," said Kaddo, recounting the April 22 court hearing.
Nora said the remark was just the latest threat that Kaddo has made against him in the last two years.
In court documents, Nora said he is so afraid of Kaddo that he moved to an undisclosed location and quit attending services at his church.
"I live under a constant threat of death," he said in a declaration filed last month in Orange County Superior Court.
Nora, who is living with Kaddo's daughter, Nadia Yammine, is asking the court to bar Kaddo from coming within 150 yards of him, his home, his car or workplace. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined last month to file criminal charges against Kaddo, who was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1991 and is now assigned to Van Nuys.
The 68-year-old jurist's statement is not considered an actual threat "because the specific intent necessary to commit the crime is lacking," the district attorney's investigation concluded. "Rather, his statement appears to be an inappropriate emotional response to a very charged issue."
During the hearing, Kaddo urged Commissioner Ann Dobbs to deny his daughter's bid for custody of her three children, now 8 to 13.
He said he didn't want his grandchildren near Nora, a friend of the Kaddo family for two decades until he began dating the judge's daughter.
Kaddo testified that he told Yammine: "I can't stand to have that psycho around my grand kids. I'm going to do what I have to do to save my grandchildren," according to a transcript of the hearing.
On cross-examination, Yammine's attorney, Wendy A. Herzog, asked Kaddo what he had meant.
"If it means killing him, I will do it," the judge responded.
"Killing who?" Herzog asked.
"Mr. Nora," Kaddo answered.
"Is there anything else that it could have meant?" she asked.
"That's what I had in mind," Kaddo said.
That's where the exchange ends in the court transcript. But Nora, Yammine and Herzog contend the court reporter did not capture Kaddo's final words on the subject. They assert in court documents, that Kaddo also said, "And I would do it with my bare hands if I had to."
Kaddo's attorney, Theodore A. Cohen of Beverly Hills, denied all of the allegations against his client. He said the judge's testimony was misinterpreted.
"What he intended to say was that anybody would do whatever they could to protect a child or grandchild," Cohen said. "He said what any one of us would have said" under the same circumstances.
In addition to seeking a restraining order against the judge, Nora filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Performance, which investigates allegations of misconduct and disciplines errant judges.
No California judge has ever been publicly disciplined for threatening to kill another person, according to commission records. But an intemperate jurist was censured for threatening to jail a telephone company worker if the judge's phone service was interrupted. Another judge was removed from office for misconduct that included threatening to give a police officer "a .38-[caliber] vasectomy" after he cited the judge for excessive use of her car horn.
Yammine said in a declaration that the court should take the threats her father made against Nora "very, very seriously."
Nora and Yammine said their dispute with Kaddo began almost two years earlier, when Nora, a family friend, helped Yammine with her divorce from a wealthy Lebanese businessman. Kaddo wanted Yammine to return to her husband.
According to his declaration, Nora said the judge showed him four tire valves a few days after the tires on his Jeep were deflated in October 2000 in a secure garage, implying that the judge was responsible.
Kaddo, who once presided over a Compton courtroom, also threatened to "get gang members that he has done favors for as a judge to harm me," Nora said in court papers.
And a month before the heated child custody hearing, Nora said he received an anonymous call from someone who told him in Lebanese that "my days were numbered."
In court documents filed this week, Yammine accused her ex-husband of having ties to the terrorist group, Hezbollah. She said her father has sided with him in an effort to fulfill his political and business aspirations in his homeland.
Yammine also accused Kaddo of conspiring with her ex-husband to keep her children, who are U.S. citizens, in Lebanon against her will.