The Bay Cities Observer
Virginia McCullough
© 2002


Dateline:  Marin County, California  12/05/02

The fragile facade of justice in the Marin County Courts has been shattered again.  For those readers who have followed the infamous career of former family law judge Michael Buck Dufficy, it will come as no surprise that he is, once more, at the center of the storm.  Judge Dufficy,  whose family has been interlaced with power and politics in Marin County for several generations, seems intent on tainting his family's legacy by his own arrogant, abusive behavior on the bench.

Judge Dufficy was appointed to the Marin County Municipal Court in 1990.  Within three years widespread rumors about his partiality to certain attorney surfaced.  Rumors became complaints and in 1997 the Marin County Grand Jury conducted a formal inquiry into the court's conduct.  The Marin County counsel told the Grand Jury members that they had no right to investigate court matters and the investigation was effectively shut down.  The rumors of an on-again, off-again FBI investigation fed fuel to the fire re-ignited by Judge Dufficy's abrasive behavior and biased rulings.

On February 28, 2000 the privately funded Karen Winner Report called for the immediate suspension of both Judge Michael Dufficy and Family Law Commissioner Sylvia Shapiro citing undeclared conflicts of interests and the possibility of criminal conspiracies in certain cases.  The report urged the continuation of federal investigations into the Family Law Courts in Marin County.

Finding himself in the middle of a recall drive, Judge Dufficy issued a statement on May 26,  2000 stating that he would immediately stop presiding over family law cases.  He cited health concerns brought on by the stress of his court position.

Newspaper coverage of the ongoing court corruption centering around Family Law Commissioner Sylvia Shapiro, Judge Dufficy and Dufficy's successor on the Family Law bench, Judge John A. Sutro, Jr.,  provided a continuing and revealing education to those litigants caught up in the web of court intrigue.

Using their new found knowledge, litigants submitted formal complaints to the Commission on Judicial Performance.  The Commission's director Victoria Henley, cited "privacy issues" is refusing to state how many complaints were received by the Commission; she further refused to state which judges had been the subject of complaints.

However, two documented complaints exist involving Judge Dufficy's conflicts of interests and bias while on the bench and his violations of the Code of Judicial Ethics.

The Family Law case Ettefagh v. Ettefagh (No. FL 13610) is said to be the largest and most highly politicized case is Marin County.  On July 23, 2001 Semrin Ettefagh submitted a detailed 13 page complaint accompanied by an additional 304 pages of documentation.  The complaint named both Judge Dufficy and Judge Sutro citing ex parte contact between the two judges on this case after Dufficy had recused himself.  On October 7, 2002 (14 months after the complaint was initially filed) the Commission's staff counsel Richard S. Horn notified Semrin Ettefagh that: "As to the second judge (Dufficy) named on the complaint form submitted by you, the commission has considered the matter and, as to certain allegation(s), taken an appropriate corrective action." and "As to the first judge (Sutro) named on the complaint form, the matter remains under consideration."

Attorney William J. Moriarty addressed his complaint  about Judge Dufficy to the Commission on Judicial Performance on September 12, 2001. Coincidentally, he also was notified of the commission's actions on October 7, 2002; the letter was also signed by the Commission's staff counsel Richard S. Horn.  Click to read both letters.

When the Commission's director Victoria Henley was asked whether the commission would take second place behind any law enforcement agency that might be considering criminal charges, Ms. Henley stated that the Commission would probably cooperate with law enforcement in any pending investigation.  Could the on-again, off-again FBI investigation into the Marin County Family Law Courts be the reason that the commission choose to keep "the appropriate corrective actions" secret?

Allowing a judge, such as Dufficy, to remain on the bench after he clearly violated specific sections of the Code of Judicial Ethics does not protect the litigants who appear before him.  Such discipline clearly undermines the public's trust in the judiciary.  The only individual protected by such private reprovals is Michael Buck Dufficy.

His actions are appalling.  So to is his disrespect for his own family's good name.

There is an old expression prevalent in many cultures and many languages.  The meaning is the same.  Parents create, children enjoy and grandchildren destroy.  If this proverb is true then the time is appropriate for the Dufficy name to be tarnished by the conduct of Judge Michael Buck Dufficy.

On October 27, 2001 Judge Dufficy sent an email to as follows:

My Great Great Grandfather Francis Dufficy left Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland in either 1847 or '48, during the height of the Famine.  He took his entire family, which consisted of his wife Alicia Lane Dufficy and their six children, one of whom was my great great grandfather Michael Calhoun Dufficy.  We believe that the family first went to Liverpool and then sailed from there to America.  We know that the family arrived in New Orleans around 1850, that Francis died there, and that then Alicia went with the children by ship to Panama, crossed the Isthmus, and sailed to San Francisco arriving in 1851 or '52.

I do not know how long Francis and the family remained in Liverpool or precisely what year they sailed to America.  I also do not know whether they sailed direct to New Orleans, or first to Boston or New York.  I would like to find out the name of the ship they sailed on, and obtain a copy of the manifest or passenger list.

If anyone can help, please let me know.  My Email at work is: and at home: .

Thank you          Michael Dufficy

For a more complete Dufficy family history Click.

It is obvious, based on Judge Dufficy's research into his family's history, that he is interested in his roots.  He is concerned about his family - past and present.  He wants to gather the threads of his heritage and pass it on to his children.  So why is Judge Dufficy destroying his own family's reputation by prostituting his position of power to destroy other people's families?

by Virginia McCullough © 12/5/02

Until approximately December 1, 2002, a Dufficy family history appeared on the web at as part of the Marin County GenWeb Project, which project is still online at This family history has apparently been pulled off the www.  If this article is restored to the web, NMN will try to link it.