The following concerns Judge Freedman, who is the Complex Litigation Judge for Alameda Superior Court, supervising all of the asbestos and silica cases:
(06-26) 12:34 PDT OAKLAND -- A state judicial agency censured an Alameda County judge today but allowed him to keep his job after finding that he repeatedly took longer to decide cases than the law allows and signed false affidavits allowing him to collect his salary.
Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman waited more than the 90-day legal limit to rule on 21 cases from 2000 to 2004, the Commission on Judicial Performance said. In one case, submitted in March 2003, Freedman took 16 months to issue a decision, the commission said.
The presiding judges of his court met with Freedman five times during the period to tell him that cases were overdue, the commission said. At the last of those meetings, in August 2004, he was removed as supervising judge of the court branch in Hayward.
Throughout that time, Freedman signed affidavits every two weeks declaring that he had no cases under submission for more than 90 days and continued to receive his paychecks, the commission said.
Under the state Constitution, the judge should not have been paid during that period, the commission said. He does not have to forfeit any salary now, however, because he has ruled on all the cases.
Freedman, 63, was appointed to the county Municipal Court by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996 and to the Superior Court by Wilson in 1998. He practiced law in Oakland from 1969 to 1996, handling mostly business-related cases.
One of his rulings as a judge in May 2006 would have allowed thousands of California high school students who failed the state's exit exam to receive diplomas if they had met all other graduation requirements. Freedman said the students were likely to prove that the state had denied them equal access to the education they needed to learn the material on the test, but the state Supreme Court lifted his injunction and the students were denied diplomas.
Since the commission charged him with misconduct last year, Freedman has acknowledged failing to keep track of his cases and said he has improved his tracking system and avoided further delays since late 2004. He said he did not knowingly submit false salary affidavits but simply signed the documents without paying attention to their content.
But the commission, citing the presiding judges' periodic warnings to Freedman, said today that he had shown an "utter disregard for the truth or falsity of salary affidavits he signed when he knew he had delayed matters pending."
Freedman "has committed egregious and persistent misconduct which would warrant removal if considered alone," without regard to his overall record, the commission said.
But the agency said it was swayed by his "otherwise exemplary performance," numerous testimonials from lawyers and fellow judges, Freedman's admission of wrongdoing and "our perception that he is unlikely to offend again."
The vote for a "severe public censure" was 6-1, with the dissenting commissioner favoring removal from office.