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O.C. judge investigated on suspicion of improper sexual conduct

March 29, 2013|By Nicole Santa Cruz

An Orange County Superior Court judge is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of  improper sexual conduct -- allegedly in his courtroom chambers – authorities said.

Deputies are completing a month-long investigation into Scott Steiner, a former high-ranking prosecutor and the son of former Orange County Supervisor William Steiner, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman with the sheriff’s department. 

Amormino said that Steiner’s chambers were searched, and potential evidence was gathered and will be tested for DNA.

The investigation is expected to be completed next week, and deputies will send a report to the state attorney general, Amormino said.

“We’re looking into all the allegations to see if they’re criminal or not,” Amormino said.

Steiner, a prosecutor in the county for more than a decade, was elected to a six-year term on the bench in 2010.

The district attorney’s office was informed last month that Chapman University, where Steiner teaches, was conducting an inquiry into Steiner’s conduct, said Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney's chief of staff.

The district attorney’s office asked the state attorney general to handle any further investigation because of Steiner’s relationship with the prosecutor’s office.

Before taking the bench in January 2011, Steiner was a deputy district attorney. He started out as a law clerk and worked his way up to special prosecutions and the gang units, Schroeder said.

Steiner is politically connected. When he was elected in 2010, he garnered the endorsement of Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

On March 11, Steiner was transferred from the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana to the North Justice Center in Fullerton, said Gwen Vieau, a spokeswoman with the superior court. She said several judges were moved at that time.

Steiner has also been an adjunct faculty at Chapman University’s Law School. Officials at the university could not provide details on Steiner’s employment Friday.

“We look forward to working with the inquiry to resolve any questions,” said Paul S. Meyer, Steiner’s attorney. “We believe that the truth will clear this matter.”

In 2011, while working as a prosecutor, Steiner was accused of using an office computer for work related to his unsuccessful campaign for the Orange City Council.

State prosecutors investigated the complaints to avoid a conflict of interest. No charges were filed.

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nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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