The California Attorney General's Office will not pursue criminal charges against Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner, whose former law school student claimed to have been coerced into having sex with him, according to Steiner's attorney.
“The Attorney (General's Office) made the right call,” veteran OC defense attorney Paul S. Meyer reportedly said. “Judge Steiner is innocent. He has been forthright and candid.”
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In late February, Chapman University officials notified the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) that one of its law school students claimed to have had a lengthy, quid pro quo sexual affair with Steiner, who helped to land her a prosecutor's job within the previous year.
The OCDA alerted the state Attorney General's office (AG), recusing the Orange County agency from the case because of possible conflicts–or at least the appearance of conflicts–because Steiner used to work there as a prosecutor before being elected a judge in 2010.
But the investigation was still handled by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, even though Sheriff Sandra Hutchens had personally endorsed Steiner's judge candidacy. Investigators' findings were then turned over to the AG, and Steiner was transferred from the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana to handling small claims court cases at the North Justice Center in Fullerton.
The former student, who was apparently upset because she lost that job Steiner got her, claimed she “was coerced into sexual relations” with him and alleged suffering from an assault, emotional trauma, negligence, discrimination, battery, loss of job
opportunities, harassment and retaliation. She sought at least $1 million in damages.
The California Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board rejected her claim in May, explaining it had no jurisdiction over the judicial branch of government. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction on claims against the judicial branch, according to an agency spokesperson.
The State Bar could also discipline Steiner, who in a May statement from Meyer's Costa Mesa office said he regretted his “lapse of judgment and apologized to his family shortly after the relationship ended nearly a year ago.”
At that time, Meyer … ahem … fleshed out the story, describing the female lawyer as being in her 30s and saying her relationship ended when it was discovered by her husband. The lawyer also pointed out no complaint was filed with law enforcement after the affair ended.
With the AG now out of the way, Meyer on Thursday took the gloves off, claiming the accuser's original letter to Chapman “was filled with lies, which Judge Steiner absolutely denies.” The lawyer also seized on a demand for money in the message to the university.
“We are pleased that this blatant extortion attempt has been rejected,” Meyer reportedly told City News Service, “and the overly long investigation finally confirms his innocence.”
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.