An Orange County Superior Court judge, who was criticized in May for denying a permanent restraining order request from a Huntington Beach school board trustee, was publicly admonished Dec. 13 over comments he made in a different restraining order hearing.
Judge Timothy J. Stafford, who served on the Orange County bench from September 2013 through his retirement this past September, was chastised by the Commission on Judicial Performance for “inappropriate” comments he made during an April 5, 2017, hearing regarding a woman’s request for a restraining order against a co-worker.
The woman had testified that she and the man had been friends before he began making “unwanted sexual advances.” It only got worse after she rebuffed him, according to the petitioner, who claims he continued making remarks and sending texts and emails that “crossed the line” or expressed anger that she had cut him off.
The commission zeroed-in on what the judge said as the hearing wound down. He characterized the woman’s co-worker as “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.”
Then there was Stafford’s problematic reference to a text message that the woman sent to her husband, asking him to buy her a new car in exchange for performing oral sex with him daily. “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,’” hizzoner reasoned, “we will be at the Mercedes dealer pretty soon, but not because I’m married, all right.”
Stafford’s denial of the restraining order was overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which ruled the judge “abused his discretion.” The commission adds that Stafford’s “conduct violated his duty to be dignified and courteous to those with whom he deals in an official capacity.”
As my colleague Gabriel San Román reported in May, Ocean View School District Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin’s request for a permanent restraining order against blogger Charles “Chuck” Johnson was denied by Stafford despite the defendant in his HB Sledgehammer posts having threatened to kill the school board member, take an ax to her family and bomb public meetings.
Stafford found Clayton-Tarvin’s case for a permanent restraining order “weak,” prompting Clayton-Tarvin to label the ruling “reckless,” complain that “justice was not served,” and admit that she “continued to worry about my safety and that of my family.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.