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Judge is ordered off the bench

Judicial performance panel cites a series of offenses by the Santa Barbara County jurist.

December 13, 2006|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

A state panel on Tuesday ordered a Santa Barbara County judge removed from her job after a series of offenses, including driving drunk and hiding the source of campaign funds.

The conduct of Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall, 56, shows "an alarming disrespect for authority" and "an inability to control her behavior," the Commission on Judicial Performance concluded in a harshly worded 30-page decision.

Hall, the sixth California judge removed by the panel since 2001, "undermined the fair electoral process with her deceit and misrepresentations," commissioners wrote. "At a minimum, there is an appearance that Judge Hall holds her judicial office as a result of election fraud."

The decision will become final in 30 days unless the state Supreme Court chooses to review it. Neither Hall nor her attorney, Rebecca D. Lizarraga of Studio City, could be reached for comment.

Hall's legal problems centered largely on a romantic relationship she had with an aerospace executive named Deidra Dykeman.

In hearings, Hall said she failed to report Dykeman's $20,000 contribution to her 2002 campaign because she wanted to keep their relationship a secret. She also said she didn't realize it was illegal not to mention the money -- roughly half of her campaign fund -- on four separate disclosure forms

The commission concluded that she was lying, calling her position "feigned ignorance."

Hall had been a Santa Barbara prosecutor for 13 years. In 1990, Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the Municipal Court in Santa Maria. She was elevated to the Superior Court there in 1998.

Her problems exploded into public view on Dec. 21, 2002, after a drunken argument with Dykeman at their Santa Ynez Valley home. With a blood-alcohol level of .18% -- more than twice the legal limit -- Hall was arrested on two drunk driving counts and several battery charges. She was given three years' probation on the traffic offenses, but a jury acquitted her on a felony charge of allegedly using a gun to intimidate Dykeman.

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara prosecutors had learned of the unreported $20,000 donation. Eight months after her first trial, she was charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Under an agreement with prosecutors, those charges were suspended and will be dismissed if a judge finds that Hall has not committed any further offenses while the commission deliberated.

In their decision, commissioners also criticized Hall's judgment in other instances.

In one of them, she improperly questioned a prosecutor who tried to have her disqualified from hearing a domestic violence case, the commission said.

In another, she defied Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville and grabbed a seat reserved for the press at Michael Jackson's arraignment in 2004.

Before she was led to a chair at the back of the room, the commission's report said, a bailiff asked whether the seat she was occupying had been assigned to her.

"It is now," she replied.

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steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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