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Q:  Can a judge place his thumb on the scales of justice to tilt them in a favored direction?
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Judges Judging Judges
It's no secret that judges have a special compassion for their fellow judges
In 2004, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser was convicted of eight misdemeanors in connection with a major scandal at his court house.  In 2005, the California Commission of Judicial Performance found Danser had engaged in willful misconduct 32 times, and the following year he was convicted of a felony for fixing parking tickets for his friends and members of two street gangs.  However, fellow Superior Court Judge William Kelsay later reduced Danser's felony conviction to a misdemeanor on the basis that the felony would hinder Danser from finding new employment.

Conviction of ex-judge slashed from a felony
William Danser's Probation also ends one year early
August 12, 2006

Former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser's felony conviction for fixing parking tickets for friends and members of the San Jose Sharks and Earthquakes was reduced to a misdemeanor Friday.

During a 15-minute hearing, Danser's attorney told Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge William Kelsay that the former judge would be hindered from finding new employment when, as is typical, an employer asks about previous legal convictions.

Kelsay agreed to reduce Danser's single felony conviction to a misdemeanor and immediately terminate Danser's probation, about a year early. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office opposed the motion. Danser was also convicted of eight related misdemeanors in 2004 in connection with one of the court's biggest scandals in recent years.

"He thanked the judge. He spoke to the judge. He admitted his responsibility for the criminal acts that took place and said he was very sorry for what had occurred,'' said Arthur Dudley, a Santa Cruz attorney who handled his conviction appeals.

Dudley said Danser, 52, may be interested in obtaining a state-issued real estate license, but he noted "potentially you would have to disclose'' such convictions for every type of job.

Deputy District Attorney David Pandori, who prosecuted the case, opposed Danser's motion, calling the former judge's actions far more serious than "a mistake of judgment.''

In 2004, Danser was sentenced to 400 hours of community service, three months of house arrest and three years of probation. Former Los Gatos police detective Randy Bishop received the same sentence for his role in the scheme.

Danser remains banned for life from serving as a judge. His license to practice law has been suspended by the state bar. Pandori said he believed the state bar would keep the suspension in place.

"For the purpose of the state bar and history, he's still been convicted of a felony,'' Pandori said.

Dudley said Danser still must ask a judicial body to formally expunge his felony record and that such an action generally follows an order like Kelsay's. Dudley said he believed the felony would now be considered "a misdemeanor for all purposes, which could have an impact on the state bar. They may look at the totality of the circumstances.''

In February, a state appeals court rejected Danser's bid to overturn all his convictions after concluding the jury's verdict two years ago was backed by the evidence.

Dudley said that in Friday's hearing Kelsay noted that Danser had paid $2,900 in fines, completed 400 hours of community service and served probation without violations. In making his decision, Kelsay said Danser's single felony conviction, for conspiracy to obstruct justice, was based on the misdemeanor convictions.

Danser's probation was not completely without incident. Last year, Kelsay modified Danser's probation when, a week before Danser completed his 90-day electronic monitoring period, a urine test showed he had alcohol in his system. But the tests were inconclusive about the source of the alcohol. He then was ordered to counseling and banned from bars. The county probation department also was granted its request to be able to regularly test Danser for alcohol through the completion of his probation.

Last year, the state Commission on Judicial Performance found Danser engaged in willful misconduct 32 times, in violation of judicial ethics standards, and barred him from ever performing duties on behalf of the state's courts.

The commission's decision is not affected by Friday's actions.

Copyright 2006, Mercury News

From: The Mercury News, San Jose, California, August 12, 2006, http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/crime_courts/15258025.htm, accessed 09/27/06.  Mary Anne Ostrom may be reached at mostrom@mercurynews.com.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

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