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Action Against Judge Is Weighed

November 15, 2005|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

The state agency that disciplines judges convened a hearing Monday to consider action against a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge who was convicted of drunk driving and later accused of campaign-law violations.

At a proceeding called by the Commission on Judicial Performance, Judge Diana R. Hall said she expressed remorse over driving near her Santa Ynez Valley home with a blood-alcohol level of 0.18% -- more than twice the legal limit. The incident, before Christmas 2002, occurred after Hall had an angry confrontation with Deidra Dykeman, her domestic partner at the time.

When asked about accusations that she broke campaign finance laws by failing to disclose a $20,000 loan from Dykeman for her 2002 campaign, Hall said that she did not want the source of the loan known because it would have raised questions about her sexual orientation.

Northern Santa Barbara County is "extremely conservative," said Hall, who hears cases in Santa Maria. "I knew this was something that would make my job more difficult on a day-to-day basis."

In addition, she said, she and Dykeman had purchased a home together and were accustomed to sharing their money. In her testimony, she said she mistakenly thought that laws on financial disclosure did not apply to people who were living together.

"It was my belief that it was our money and that we hadn't done anything illegal," she said.

Hall also is being accused of improperly questioning an attorney who asked that she be disqualified in a domestic violence case. On Monday, she denied the allegation.

Three Superior Court judges -- Michael S. Fields of Monterey County, George J. Abdallah Jr. of San Joaquin County and Mark R. Forcum of San Mateo County -- are conducting the hearing as "special masters" of the commission at the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura. The hearing is to continue this week, but a decision is not expected for several months.

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