Judge Censured, Barred For Ordering Lawyer To Be Paid In Gift Certificates

A judicial commission for California judges censured and barred the recently retired judge Brett C. Klein for showing bias, abusing authority, and grandstanding to the press. At issue was his January 2009 alteration of a class action settlement, where he ordered everyone, including the attorneys, to be paid the same way: via $10 gift vouchers from a woman’s clothing store.

The suit was filed by a California woman against Windsor Fashions because the store demanded ID from customers who paid with a credit card. The store settled in November 2008, and agreed to pay the attorneys $125,000 and the woman $2,500. Everyone else who was part of the suit, however, was to be paid a $10 gift voucher.

In January of last year, Judge Brett C. Klein sat in for an ill colleague at a final “fairness hearing” to approve the settlement. He was not amused by the terms, and he changed them so that everyone was paid in store scrip.

The Recorder asked Klein about the commission’s statement that he had been sarcastic to the attorneys at the hearing:

Klein said Tuesday he was dealing with difficult lawyers in the class action and started talking “more bluntly” with them when they evaded his questions about the final order.

“My job was to make my ruling the best I could and at the time I thought that was the correct ruling,” he said. “So I can’t really regret having done my job.”

According to that same article, Klein ordered reconsideration of the ruling later, so presumably the lawyer and plaintiff got actual cash in the end.

You can read the decision here:
Decision and order imposing public censure and bar pursuant to stipulation (PDF) [CJP]

“Retired L.A. County judge disciplined” [Los Angeles Times] (Thanks to Ellen!)
“Judge Censured for Ordering Lawyers to Be Paid by Retailer Gift Vouchers” [The Recorder]

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