A retired Orange County Superior Court judge was admonished Friday by a state watchdog organization for making "inappropriate" comments during a restraining order hearing.
Judge Timothy J. Stafford, who served on the Orange County bench from September 2013 to September of this year, was rapped for comments he made during an April 5, 2017 hearing on a woman's request for a restraining order against a co-worker at a landscaping company. The petitioner testified that her once close friend began making "unwanted sexual advances toward her," and that despite her rebuffing them he continued to "make remarks and send texts and emails that 'crossed the line' or expressed anger that she had cut off contact with him," according to the admonishment from the Commission on Judicial Performance.
At the hearing's end, Stafford said, "I feel like I've sat for the last four and a half or five hours dealing with junior high school students, both of you, even though you have some gray over your ears, all right."
Stafford said that the woman's co-worker was "pretty much the big man on campus, had the bucks in his back pocket, and the petitioner was the best looking girl in school, and he was going to get her any way he possibly could, all right. And she knew it, and she liked it, because she got things. And don't -- counsel, you're giving me a frown." Referring to a text message that the woman sent to her husband asking him to buy her a new car in exchange for performing a sex act on him daily, Stafford said, "If I got a letter from someone, or a phone call saying, I'll give you a (sex act) every day for the rest of your life for a car, we will be at the Mercedes dealer pretty soon, but not because I'm married, all right."
Stafford denied the request for the restraining order, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned it, ruling Stafford "abused his discretion," according to the commission. The appellate justices said Stafford did not reveal any bias, but his comment about the Mercedes dealer was "clearly inappropriate," according to the commission.
"The judge's comment is the antithesis of judicial decorum and courtesy," the appellate justices said in the ruling.
The justices also found "gender bias" in Stafford's remarks that the woman was "the best looking in school" and her former friend was the "big man on campus" and that "she liked it, because she got things." The commission said Stafford's "conduct violated his duty to be dignified and courteous to those with whom he deals in an official capacity."