by Virginia McCullough

Volumes have been written about the rampant corruption on the Marin County Superior Court bench located on the north side of San Francisco Bay in the Golden State of California.  Judges such as Michael Buck Dufficy and Commissioners such as Sylvia Shapiro, now receiving Marin County disability pay and living in Hawaii, brought notoriety and shame to the entire Marin County bench.

Marin County's infamous FLEAS (Family Law Elite Attorneys) share a special relationship with judges like Dufficy and Judge Verna Adams. These elite attorneys and some of the judges they appear before enjoy a yearly three-day vacation over Memorial Day hosted by Judge Dufficy at his historic Pioneer hotel at 11025 Main Street in Sheep Ranch, California.  A former member of the FLEAS, attorney Kathryn Shepherd. said the group was organized in the early 1980s.  The "in club" met regularly to discuss the social and professional aspects of the Marin County Bar and Bench.  And they always looked forward to Memorial Day when they could let their hair down and talk shop away from the scrutiny of Marin citizens.

In 1990 attorney Michael Dufficy secured a political appointment to the Marin Bench from Governor George Deukmejian.  That year the party at Dufficy's Sheep Ranch hostel was particularly wild.  The party was vividly described by Matt Issacs in his article: Odor! Odor in the Court published in the October 10, 2000 San Francisco Weekly.

That year at Sheep Ranch, Shepherd says, Dufficy passed out T-shirts to all the guests with a picture on the front of a large man smoking a cigar. "Good Ol' Boy," the T-shirt read.  The back depicted two bald, rotund men in business suits scratching each others' backs.  All weekend, she says, Dufficy walked around in a judge's robe with nothing underneath.  One night after dinner, all the attorneys got together and sprayed whipped cream on the new judge's bald head, adding a cherry for good measure.

"It was really something like Animal House," Shepherd says, laughing.  "Folks would begin drinking as soon as they got up in the morning.  Beer. Wine.  At night they'd hit the harder stuff."

Another article entitled Sheep Ranch, California: Where the Marin Bar Bellies up to Judge Michael Buck Dufficy's Bar at his Pioneer Hotel (Click.) published at on May 3, 2001, detailed the history of the historic town and the repercussions of the Memorial Day vacations where pending cases might or might not have been decided outside the courtroom by inebriated officers of the court.

Many who read about the judges' escapades in Marin shook their head and dismissed it as an isolated incident, a rare apparition of justice in a very large and diverse state.  Certainly, it was assumed, the other more conservative counties in the great state of California had respectable justices who conducted themselves appropriately with a professionalism worthy of their black robes.  Marin County was looked upon as a liberal cow town located too close to San Francisco not to have absorbed some of that wild, free spirit.

But farther south there is another beautiful bay on California's Pacific coast.  Monterey Bay is home to the very wealthy and is considered politically conservative.  An area known for its great beauty and its conclaves of artists, the main concern in the county seems to be the need to conserve water as its controlled growth accelerates.

Monterey County's court system is not centralized as is Marin County's in one courthouse, but is spread out over several adjoining cities within the county.  The superior court's criminal department is located in the historic farming community of Salinas, California, home of author John Steinbeck.  The civil department is located in more modern downtown Monterey.  Branch offices are available in nearby Marina, California and far off King City, California.  Recently, however, it became very apparent to court followers that both county benches have one thing in common.  Monterey County's Superior Court is just as thoroughly corrupt as its counterpart in Marin County.

An explosive declaration was filed on November 15, 2005 in Monterey Superior Court Case No. M72599, Eugene Forte, plaintiff, vs. Judge Robert O'Farrell, et al., defendants. The declaration was signed under penalty of perjury by long-time Monterey court employee Crystal Powser.  The document addressed sexual propositions to Crystal by a married judge, the fixing of judicial assignments following judicial disqualifications and the pre-determination of guilt by Special Masters sitting in judgment on Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall. (Click to read Crystal Powser's Declaration filed 11/16/05

The Powser declaration contains 47 paragraphs detailing the events from November 13, 2005 and November 16, 2005.  The declaration contains graphic sexual propositions purported to have been made to Crystal Powser by Monterey Judge Michael Fields, a married man. These exchanges took place at the Pierpoint Inn, room 411, in Ventura, California.  This was the hotel occupied by special masters appointed by the Commission on Judicial Performance to conduct formal proceedings to determine the guilt or innocence of Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall who had been charged with willful misconduct in office as specified in the Commissions' action No. 175 initiated July 8, 2005.  In their official capacity as special masters it is assumed that their expense reports will be covered by the Commission on Judicial Performance or by the Supreme Court which directly appoints them to their authoritative positions.

Once the Powser declaration was entered into the court record the sleeping giant that is Sacramento, the power capital of California, stirred suddenly awake.  The next day, November 17, 2005, the attorney general for the State of California and self-proclaimed gubernatorial candidate for governor in the next election, Bill Lockyer, filed on behalf of defendant Judge Robert O'Farrell an ex parte application to strike the declaration as "irrelevant and scandalous".

On November 17, 2005 Marshall B. Grossman, Chairperson of the Special Masters signed a declaration stating in part that:

1.  The November 17, 2005 stay of all proceedings before the current special masters remains in full force and effect.

2.  The California Supreme Court will be requested to relieve the current special masters from their service in this matter and proceed with the selection process for new special masters.

To say that the declaration brought the wheels of justice to a halt in both Monterey and in the California's state capital would be an understatement. The question is, WHY?

This reporter has reviewed many of the court records involved in the numerous cases involved in this dramatic development as well as the many local newspaper articles.  Court records and articles have also been reviewed that pertain to plaintiff Eugene Forte.  To present to my reading public a complete picture of the complicated web of politics and court cases that abound in this multi-county adventure will require much more homework.  The results will be covered in future articles.

However, I feel comfortable in saying that what I now know leads me to believe that one individual has proven her credibility by her past actions and the results obtained from those actions.  There is one individual who stands out by virtue of her straight forward behavior and direct approach to her problems.  Ms. Crystal Powser has my admiration.  I only wish that she had been cloned as a clerk in the Marin County Courthouse.  She has the courage to "tell it like it is" regardless of the consequences.  Our courts would be cleaner if more hard working clerks or assistants told the truth about what takes place under the cover up of the black robed ones who prostitute their positions of power.

Virginia McCullough © December 1, 2005