On January 4, 2005 the California Supreme Court granted a request by the Commission on Judicial Performance to appoint new special masters to sit in judgment of Santa Barbara Judge Diana R. Hall. The commission instituted formal proceedings labeled Inquiry No. 175 against Judge Hall on July 25, 2005.
The Supreme Court had originally appointed three special masters on September 20, 2005 to hear and take evidence and report thereon to the Commission. The evidentiary hearing before those special masters commenced on November 14, 2005, at the Court of Appeal for the Second District, Division Six, in Ventura, California. Two days later, on November 16, 2005 about midday the hearing and taking of evidence concluded.
Later on November 16, 2005 the Commission was notified by the Executive Officer and Presiding Judge of the Monterey County Superior Court that Crystal Powser had filed a sworn declaration in an unrelated case. That declaration contained salacious sexual details and more importantly detailed statements allegedly made to Ms. Powser by the presiding special master, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Michael S. Fields that suggested that the three special masters, Judge Michael S. Fields, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge George J. Abdallah and San Mateo Superior Court Judge Mark R. Forcum had prejudged contested issues in the matter pending before them. (Click to read Crystal Powser's Declaration filed 11/16/05)
The next day, November 17, 2005, the Commission issued a single-sentence Order: "The Commission on Judicial Performance today issued an Order Staying Proceedings in the Matter Concerning Judge Diana R. Hall, Inquiry No. 175."
On November 23, 2005 the Commission determined that the proceeding against Judge Hall should not continue before the current panel of special masters and that the Supreme Court should be petitioned to appoint new special masters who would be authorized to hear and take evidence and report their findings to the Commission.
On November 30, 2005, Judge Hall's attorney Edith R. Matthai filed a request for the Commission to vacate its order of November 23, 200, and to dismiss the Hall Inquiry. Matthai pointed out that there is no rule which would allow a "stay of all proceedings," and no rule which would allow the Commission to abandon proceedings before the Special Masters while continuing the proceedings against Judge Hall by asking for appointment of new Special Masters. Matthai asked that the Commission's rescind its request for the appointment of new Special Masters, and dismiss the proceedings pending against Judge Hall. This Request for Rescission of the Order of November 23, 2005 Requesting Appointment of New Masters to Proceed De Novo in This Matter, and Request for Dismissal of the Proceedings in the Interest of Justice was 34 pages in length and included approximately 100 pages of attachments.
On December 14, 2005, The Commission denied Judge Hall's request of November 30, 2005 stating "The request is hereby denied in its entirety".
Today the Order from the Supreme Court stated:
The "Petition for Order Relieving Special Masters of their Assignment and Directing Appointment of New Special Masters," filed by the Commission on Judicial Performance on December 15, 2005, is granted. The order filed by this court on September 20, 2005 (Admin. 2005-9-1), appointing three special masters in Inquiry Concerning Judge Diana. R. Hall, No. 175 is vacated, and we shall proceed with the process of selecting and appointing three new special masters to serve in that matter. To facilitate the selection and appointment of the new special masters, the Commission on Judicial Performance is directed to set a tentative date for the commencement of a new hearing to be conducted before the new special masters and to inform this court of that date.
It is unknown if the Commission's Inquiry number will change or when the new date will be set for the hearing by the new special masters.
Virginia McCullough © January 4, 2005