Judge Salvador Sarmiento May Settle Ticket Flap and Latest Alleged Judicial End-Around

Categories: Court
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The Commission on Judicial Performance was all set today for a disciplinary hearing against Orange County Superior Court Judge Salvador Sarmiento, who is accused of trying to influence a fellow jurist's handling of a traffic ticket for his wife.

But the so-called Panel of Special Masters called off the hearing because a settlement is in the works.

"The commission's decision to accept or reject the proposed disposition will be issued in due course," reads a statement from the commission.

For his alleged intervention in the proceedings concerning a Nov. 18, 2010, citation Santa Ana Police issued his wife for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Sarmiento is accused of improper action, willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.

Mrs. Sarmiento did not pay the $234 bail or appear in court by a Jan. 19, 2011, deadline, so the matter was sent to the Superior Court collection unit. That's when Judge Sarmiento is accused of approaching traffic Commissioner Carmen Luege to get a $300 civil assessment that had been added to the ticket waived.

When Sarmiento's clerk later checked the status on the ticket and saw that the assessment was still noted, the judge allegedly persuaded Luege to set a trial date. His wife showed up, pleaded guilty and paid the full fine, including the civil assessment.

Sarmiento vehemently denies any wrongdoing, claiming his interactions with his clerk and Luege regarding the ticket were simply to find out the proper procedures one must follow.

"Judge Sarmiento's sole and exclusive motivation was to handle this matter ethically and efficiently as possible," reads the response filed by his attorneys Randall A. Miller and Scott Newman of the Los Angeles law firm Miller LLP.

Of course, you'd think Sarmiento would already know the proper procedures for dealing with tickets, since he was an Orange County Superior Court commissioner from 1997 until he was appointed a judge of the same on Aug. 7, 2003.

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Nicholas
In 2009, Sarmiento was named the 22nd president of UC Irvine's Alumni Association. Speaking of UCI, Sarmiento had previously presided over the messy divorce of Newport Coast billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III, the Broadcom co-founder who has made major contributions to the university's engineering and computer science programs and established The Nicholas Prize, which recognizes innovative collaborative research. (The engineering school is named after Broadcom of Irvine's other co-founder, Henry Samueli.)

Nicholas had convinced Sarmiento to keep sealed for three years public records that included everything from divorce allegations of drug abuse and a sex dungeon to simple attorney service notices and the case docket that merely lists documents in the matter.

Moxley Confidential: Henry Nicholas' Divorce Is More Secret Than Yours

Judge James L. Waltz eventually assumed Sarmiento's divorce court duties. Over Nicholas' objections that keeping the records sealed protected the location of his children, Waltz in July 2010 agreed with briefs filed by the Los Angeles Times that argued Sarmiento's order had been both contrary to ordinary procedures and bizarre. 

Seconding that emotion was a three-judge panel of the Orange County-based state appellate court, which slammed Sarmiento and his management of records and praised Waltz for the same.

Billionaire Henry T. Nicholas Bombs in Court Secrecy Attempt

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6 comments
949girl
949girl

 Your right with your response.  I just liked him from personal experience.  If he found me guilty and was rude to people I'd probably be commenting on here that he should be fired!

Matthew T. Coker
Matthew T. Coker

You're right, asking for a favor is fine. I think the problem here is that, at least on the face of it, it's possible he exerted undue influence. It's not his clerk's job to track his wife's ticket, but since the clerk's boss asked, it was done. Likewise, a traffic commissioner would likely tell you or me to pound sand if we missed our appearance date. A judge in a higher position than a commissioner, one who could recommend/decline-to-recommend a commissioner for a future promotion, could unduly influence an outcome as well. There is this precious notion in this country that it's an even playing field for all when it comes to the law. If that's the case here, we should all be able to get a new trial as the judge's wife did. BTW, if her ticket was B.S., why didn't she fight it? As you say, judges are more reasonable than traffic cops.

949girl
949girl

no one thought I'd win my ticket in court, people were like "good luck with that."  I knew I ran the light by a milisecond when the light flashed at Bristol & Segerstrom and sure enough, 2 weeks later I got the $480 ticket in the mail ($540 w/ traffic school), I fought it because I didn't morally agree with a camera telling me I broke the law.  I was under the impression that he doesn't normally do traffic, maybe he was filling in or maybe I'm wrong.  He didn't seem to be a fan of the red light camera tickets and I heard him jokingly say "do I have to do this again tomorrow?"  Anyway, my defense was the 6th Amendment, I never denied running the light.  He seemed ok with that defense.  Other defenses I heard that day with the red light tickets were one guy said he had a perfect driving record and that this was unusual for him  and another guy said he couldn't stop quick enough because he didn't want to injure his pregnant girlfriend in the passenger seat and he brought his son's birth certificate to show he was born a week later.  It sounded like he dismissed their tickets too.  Another guy was a computer engineer and he fought the technical details of the camera and the officer who monitors these tickets said he had prior red light defenses. This judge seemed fair to me.  I don't see what is so wrong by asking for a favor like that for his wife.  People in all industries do it all the time.  It was a traffic ticket, not a crime. Maybe based off of experience he knew that her ticket was BS.  I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt on this because I had seen him treat people very respectfully and he was very open minded in court.  And he had a good personality and seemed to relate to people's stories of tickets.  Also, if you get a ticket it's good to fight it, chances are you might still have to pay it but your fees could be dramatically reduced and you can probably still do traffic school.  Just go to court and explain your situation.  Judges seem a little more reasonable than traffic cops.

830 1PC
830 1PC

They will toss him off the bench for not playing the game. Of course the game is that the police write a shitload of revenue producing moving violations, the judges find the defendant guilty and the government collects the cash. It's nothing more than a legalized shakedown of our people because the politicians refuse to raise taxes. 

949girl
949girl

I got a red light camera ticket  in Santa Ana last summer.  I went to court to fight it and Judge Sarmiento was my judge.  He dismissed my ticket and I was found not guilty.  He seemed like a very fair guy.  I listened to him rule on other cases before mine and he seemed to really listen to the people protesting their tickets.  I saw a few people win in court that day even with the officer's that cited them present.  And for those he did find guilty he really cut their fees.  I liked him from personal experience.

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