Judges and candidates for judicial office are required to abide by the Canons of Judicial Ethics. These rules promote and preserve judicial independence, fairness and competency.
Canon 3 provides that “a judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently.” A subparagraph, Canon 3, Section B. sub.para (9) states, “A judge shall not make any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court.”
Canon 5 provides that “a judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity.” This Canon requires that a candidate for election or appointment to judicial office shall not misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position, or any other fact concerning the candidate or his or her opponent.
In campaign mailers, Judge Stracener clearly comments about two pending cases. In his zeal to tar Joe Hoffman with the allegations against one of Joe’s clients, Judge Stracener violated Canon 3 by making public comment about a pending proceeding.
In the same mailers, Judge Stracener also violated Canon 5 when he clearly misrepresented that the fraud allegations against a client were somehow reflective of Joe Hoffman’s integrity. Notably absent from the mailer was the statement that there is no evidence that Joe Hoffman knew or should have known that his client was lying to his investors. Without a comprehensive presentation of the facts, Judge Stracener asks the reader to decide whether Joe Hoffman committed fraud. This makes no more sense than suggesting judges are criminals because they preside in criminal cases.
Equally disturbing was Judge Stracener’s investigation into the Daniel Chartraw case which is still pending and undecided. The Sacramento Bee reported that Judge Stracener admitted contacting and interviewing an attorney for Chartraw’s investors who are seeking the money they lost. A common restriction on judges is that they not engage in out-of-court inquiries about pending cases. A judge’s independent investigation may create the appearance that the judge has so extensively injected himself or herself into the proceedings as to become a player for one side or the other, rather than an impartial adjudicator of facts. Judge Stracener has clearly become a player for one side in the Chartraw cases. No judge should ever do that.