When Judges Judge Judges

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 9th, 2006

Judges are quick to throw the book at drunk drivers, somewhat less so when those drunk drivers are judges themselves — even when they try to use their robes to keep from being arrested.


Commission Censures Two Judges Who Sought

Preferential Treatment Following DUI Arrest

San Francisco, CA   June 9.  The California Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday censured two superior court judges who, in separate incidents, tried to use their judicial positions to avoid being arrested for driving under the influence…

(Sonoma County Judge Elaine M.) Rushing stipulated that on June 21 of last year, she hit a residential wall while driving alone in Santa Rosa, causing property damage and sustaining a head injury, then left the scene without notifying law enforcement or the property owners. She then drove into a ditch.

When California Highway Patrol arrived, having been notified by someone other than Rushing, she told an officer that she was not the driver. She said that a man and woman were driving her home from a friend’s house, and that she had been sitting in the back seat, despite the fact that her car had no back seat.

She repeatedly told officers that she was a superior court judge, that her husband was an appellate court judge – Sixth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Conrad Rushing –and that they should not be arresting her…

(Riverside Superior Court Judge Bernard) Schwartz stipulated that on July 16 of last year, Pismo Beach police observed his vehicle “swerving all over the road” and crossing the double solid lines. After police determined that Schwartz’ blood alcohol level was 0.18 the officers proceeded to arrest him.

The judge told the officers, “But you know what this is going to do; this will substantially impair my career.” An officer replied, “If I let you go, it could impair my career.” The judge then said, “You don’t have to let me drive; you could just let me go home.” The officer said, “I can’t do that.”


Though receiving censures, neither judge was suspended from the bench for even a day.  And what about the criminal charges?  The laws in California require stiffer sentences in cases with very high blood-alcohol levels – in other words, you or I would be doing some hard time with the sky-high levels these two judges had, particularly where a hit-and-run was involved.  But then you and I aren’t judges.


Rushing pled no contest and was convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 with an enhancement for having a blood alcohol level greater than .20. She was placed on three years informal probation, ordered to perform 10 days of work release, attend a 45-hour alcohol program, pay a fine, and comply with other conditions of probation…

Schwartz pled no contest and was convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08. He was placed on three years probation.

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