*** Judsges Fight Back As Recall Continues
Judges Fighting BackAs Recall Bid ContinuesBy Guy Ashley
Foes of the Marin judiciary began circulating petitions this week in their effort to force a special election to recall three judges and District Attorney Paula Kamena.
The three judges, meanwhile, are preparing a counter-offensive in hopes of defusing the recall movement. The three jurists have joined forces with several top Marin attorneys and have retained a political consultant to help them counter the recall campaign.
"The judges intend to defend themselves vigorously,'' said Gary Ragghianti, a San Rafael attorney and member of the Committee to Retain an Independent Judiciary.
To that end, the group has hired political consultant Don Solem of Mill Valley to defend Marin Superior Court judges Michael Dufficy, Lynn Duryee and Terrence Boren from allegations made on petitions seeking their recall.
The three judges and Kamena are targeted by citizens who question their decisions and seek their recall in a special election next spring. Duryee and Dufficy are accused in the petitions of "corruption'' based on criticism in a citizen-commissioned report by a New York author that questioned several child-custody decisions in the Marin courts. The petitions against Kamena and Boren say they took part in a "conspiracy'' in prosecuting a Novato woman in a bitter child-custody case.
Though angry citizens announced the recall efforts more than a month ago, their petitions were not certified for circulation until last week, according to officials with the county Registrar of Voters.
Peter Romanowsky of Sausalito, a divorced father of three and treasurer of the Citizens Judiciary Review Board, which is leading the recall campaigns, said signature gathering will not begin in earnest until a kickoff rally tomorrow at the Marin farmers market.
Petitioners have four months to gather between 12,000 and 14,000 signatures for each of the officials targeted in the recall. County elections officials say a special election costing the county about $500,000 would likely be held next spring if the petition drives are successful.
The petitions have activated a swell of support within the legal community for the officials targeted by the recall. Supporters say they will fight for the three judges for two primary reasons: They disagree wholly with the allegations at the center of the recall campaign; and they believe that seeking the judges' ouster for decisions with which they disagree is an
improper use of the recall process.
The pro-judge campaign will focus on "public education and media outreach'' to counter criticisms that are being "reported as the truth'' by the local media, said Madeleine Simborg, a family law attorney in Corte Madera. "And there's not a shred of truth to what has been reported.'' Ragghianti said he believes the principle of an independent judiciary is under attack when
citizens unhappy with a judge's ruling react by campaigning to remove them from the bench. "People should be free to criticize the decisions our judges make, but a recall goes way too far,'' he said.
Ragghianti said such an overreaction is best evident in the campaigns against Duryee and Boren, each of whom has been criticized for decisions in single child-custody cases.
Ragghianti said he also opposes the recall of Dufficy, mostly because he has grave doubts about the accuracy of the findings made by author Karen Winner in a blistering report she issued in February after being paid $10,000 by citizens unhappy with the Marin judiciary.
The committee is focused on defending the judges and has no role in defending Kamena, Ragghianti said. He said he also will work to defend her if asked.
Kamena is on vacation this week and could not be reached to comment on what she plans to counter the recall.
News of the pro-judge campaign now being organized is no surprise to Romanowsky.
"The judges are worried,'' Romanowsky said. "They see that if we succeed in getting this to the ballot they will either have to be quit or be recalled.
"Just the word recall next to their names will be enough for people to vote them out.''
Romanowsky said the judges also are being hypocritical by hiring Solem. "It's hypocrisy to try to give off this aura of a separate judiciary and then hire a political hit person,'' he said.
Ragghianti said the judges have no reason to hide from the fact that Solem has been hired. "They're eager to use his expertise in defending themselves,'' he said. "Their expertise is in the law, not in political campaigning.''
Contact reporter Guy Ashley via e-mail at gashley@...
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