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JUDGES SEEM TO FAVOR OCT. 7 VOTE JUDGE PREGERSON'S COMMENT MAY VIOLATE CODE.

Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer

Federal Judge Harry Pregerson of Woodland Hills, one of the three judges who voted last week to delay the Oct. 7 recall election, has come under fire for criticizing members of the 11-judge panel that is considering setting aside his ruling.

The Code of Judicial Conduct for U.S. Judges prohibits such conduct, critics say.

``It seems that according to the Code of Judicial Conduct, court of appeals judges are not supposed to comment on any pending cases and that includes cases that are no longer before them,'' said Eugene Volokh, a UCLA Law School professor.

``So long as the case is in the process of being appealed or reheard, judges are not supposed to remark on them, except in academic discussions for the purposes of professional education, and these don't appear to apply to Judge Pregerson's comments.''

In comments made Saturday, Pregerson predicted that the 11-member panel made up of eight Democratic- and three Republican-appointed judges would prove to be more conservative and overturn the panel's decision to postpone the election.

``You know who's on the panel, right? Do you think it's going to have much of a chance of surviving? I wouldn't bet on it,'' Pregerson told the Los Angeles Times.

Pregerson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Volokh said he didn't find Pregerson's comments in themselves troubling, but the fact that he spoke to a reporter regarding an important pending case may have violated ethics canons.

``His comments didn't reveal any secrets about the litigation, didn't signal how he would decide the case - we already knew that - and weren't particularly intemperate or otherwise inherently improper, but nonetheless they did appear to violate the code,'' Volokh said.

``Maybe in this instance, the statements are not inherently harmful to the judiciary, but they do appear not to comply with the Code of Judicial Conduct.''

Richard W. Painter, a law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, said a sitting judge should not make comments about a pending case.

``It doesn't matter whether they are involved in the case, they shouldn't be making comments on a pending case. If a judge is involved in the decision, that is even more inappropriate.''

Painter said the Judicial Conference of the United States decided to remove a federal judge from a case in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago after the judge made comments to The New York Times on the pending case to split up Microsoft.

``I and many other people thought those interviews were highly inappropriate,'' Painter said.

``These cases are not to be litigated in the press. They are litigated in the courtroom and the judges have opinions where they can hand down their views.''

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985

troy.anderson(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 23, 2003
Words:464
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