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January 10, 2018

Rackauckas Endorsed Judge Steiner Knowing he was Censured for Sexual Exploitation


“Changing the culture for women starts with removing men in positions of power who turn a blind eye to abuse and by their actions send the message that sexual harassment will be tolerated.”

—Todd Spitzer

 

 

Orange County – January 10 – In the last election cycle, Rackauckas endorsed Superior Court Judge Steiner who pled guilty to violating eleven counts of Judicial Canons by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which nearly caused his removal from the Bench.1 The first group of charges centered on his misconduct for having sex in his Courthouse Chambers with two different women who were his former Chapman Law students where Steiner had been an adjunct professor. One went on to be his law clerk/intern, and the other became a practicing attorney who appeared before him. The second group of charges focussed on Steiner’s use of undue influence in trying to secure employment for his clerk/intern with Rackauckas’ office. The last group of charges involved Steiner’s failure to disclose personal relationships and improperly referring cases in which he had a personal conflict with other judges without consulting the Presiding Judge as required by court procedure.

 

The Commission stated: “In the commission’s view, engaging in sexual intercourse in the courthouse is the height of irresponsible and improper behaviour by a judge. It reflects the utter disrespect for the dignity and decorum of the court and is seriously at odds with a judge’s duty to avoid conduct that tarnishes the esteem of the judicial office in the public’s eye.” (In the Matter Concerning Judge Scott Steiner, Decision and Order Imposing Censure Pursuant to Stipulation (Rule 116.5), page 7 of 16, Emphasis Added.) The actual Commission’s findings discussed are notated at the end of this document.2

 

At the time of these extra-marital affairs, Steiner wrote his intern a letter of recommendation for a position with Rackauckas’ Office even though she apparently lacked the necessary qualifications for the job. When the intern was not called back for the next level of interviews, Judge Steiner personally telephoned two different attorneys in the District Attorney’s Office to clarify why the intern did not warrant a second interview, even stating: “Well, I guess writing a letter of recommendation means nothing.”3 For that inappropriate contact with Rackauckas’ office, the Commission wrote: “Judge Steiner’s conduct…about the employment application of Ms. A., at or around the time he was engaged in a sexual relationship with Ms. A,…asking questions about the interview and hiring processes, and expressing irritation that his recommendation had not resulted in her hiring, exceeded the scope of conduct permitted by canon 2B(2)(e)….” (See endnote iii).

 

Despite these findings of gross sexual misconduct, dereliction of duty, abuse of authority and guilty pleas by Judge Steiner, Rackauckas supported Steiner’s re-election even after Steiner admitted guilt and signed a public censure admitting to the sexual impropriety and using undue influence with Rackauckas’ Office to aid one of his mistresses’ employment opportunities. The public relies on endorsements as a sign that the conduct of the Judge while in office deserves re-election. “No responsible or ethical office holder, let alone the District Attorney of Orange County, would ever associate his name with a Judge’s re-election who engaged in such egregious and abusive sexual misconduct and which acts directly involved the District Attorney’s Office,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer. “Such endorsement and misuse of Rackauckas’ title as District Attorney was meant to signal to the public that Judge Steiner deserved re-election and his conduct was honorable and above reproach. Rackauckas’ endorsement was intended to mislead the public and soften the impact of Steiner’s guilty plea to the electorate.”

 

Such behaviour siding with men as opposed to siding with abused women is not new for Rackauckas. Rackauckas has demonstrated a pattern of negligence when it comes to not protecting women and stopping the behavior of sexual misconduct in his government office. In fact the Orange County Grand Jury (OCGJ) investigated the District Attorney Office for similar types of sexual misconduct that resulted in published findings and recommendations: “Unwelcome sexual behavior between some members of management and subordinates,” (Page 8, OCGJ 2016-2017) that created a “hostile work environment,” (Page 3, OCGJ 2016-2017). Rackauckas’ own Chief Investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Craig Hunter, was reported to the County by a practicing attorney for soliciting “sex texts, sex chats, and lewd naked pictures” during County business hours. Yet Rackauckas continued to employ Hunter for an additional two years. Not until the Grand Jury was interviewing a large number of employees at the District Attorney’s Office and it appeared imminent that the Grand Jury would issue an embarrassing public rebuke did Rackauckas finally act and dismiss Hunter. Rackauckas obviously knew that the Grand Jury findings would be so catastrophically damaging to his office that he could no longer protect Hunter’s misconduct.

 

Supervisor Todd Spitzer stated, “Rackauckas is the common denominator in Orange County’s sexual harassment scandal. His pattern and practice of tolerating sexual misconduct is unacceptable. No ethical District Attorney would endorse Steiner and condone the behavior of a man who took advantage of his female subordinates - in turn sending a message that workplace harassment is acceptable. The endorsement of Steiner for re-election was the ultimate sanction of approval for conduct that nearly resulted in Steiner being permanently removed from the bench.”

 

“Changing the culture for women starts with removing men in positions of power who turn a blind eye to abuse and by their actions send the message that sexual harassment will be tolerated. I pledge as my highest priority to always protect and empower women and to discipline and terminate any employee who engages in any type of sexual harassment in the workplace,” Spitzer concluded.

 


 

[1] All told, Judge Steiner pled guilty to violating eleven canons of judicial conduct. The Commission on Judicial Performance voted 8 to 4 to accept the guilty plea. Four commissioners voted to reject the stipulation to move to formal proceedings to remove Judge Steiner from the bench. (In the Matter Concerning Judge Scott Steiner, Decision and Order Imposing Censure Pursuant to Stipulation (Rule 116.5), page 8 of 16.)

 

[2] Judge Steiner was severely reprimanded for a “failure to observe high standards of conduct, failure to conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, failure to conduct himself in a manner that does not demean the judicial office, and misuse of court facilities. Judge Steiner’s conduct was contrary to the California Code of Judicial Ethics…canon 1….canon 2A…canon 4A(2)….Judge Steiner’s conduct constituted, at a minimum, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judiciary into disrepute.(In the Matter Concerning Judge Scott Steiner, Decision and Order Imposing Censure Pursuant to Stipulation (Rule 116.5), page 3 of 16, Emphasis Added).

 

[3] Judge Steiner was found guilty of violating canon 2b(2), which prohibits judges from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the pecuniary or personal interests of the judges or others. The guilty plea stated: “Judge Steiner’s conduct in initiating contact with the District Attorney’s office about the employment application of Ms. A., at or around the time he was engaged in a sexual relationship with Ms. A, in order to follow up on a letter of recommendation he had sent on Ms. A’s behalf, asking questions about the interview and hiring processes, and expressing irritation that his recommendation had not resulted in her hiring, exceeded the scope of conduct permitted by canon 2B(2)(e). This conduct was also contrary to canon 2B(1), which provides that a judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgement, and shall not convey the impression that any individual is in a special position to influence the judge….In addition, the conduct violated canon 2A, which provides that judges shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The conduct was, at a minimum, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judiciary into disrepute.(In the Matter Concerning Judge Scott Steiner, Decision and Order Imposing Censure Pursuant to Stipulation (Rule 116.5), page 3-4 of 16, Emphasis Added.)

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