While Judge Lemkau has been strongly criticized for his decision, little information has surfaced regarding what evidence existed at the time he denied the protective order. Understandably, judges have difficult jobs, difficult decisions and sometimes, difficult people and issues to deal with. No judge knows for certain what the immediate or latent consequences of an individual decision will be, however, the overriding principle that people before a judge should be treated in an fair, courteous and impartial manner ensure that everyone is heard. Certainly, if Judge Lemkau made his decision based on his own suspicions, rather than the evidence before him, the criticism is well deserved. According to the Associate Press, despite his public apology, Judge Lemkau is now being critized not only for his decision, but also his "unethical treatment of Ms. Tagle."
To ensure that the people of California are treated fairly before a court, every judge in California agrees to uphold the California Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 3 of that code states that "A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently." Section 4 and 5 of that Canon state:
(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require* similar conduct of lawyers and of all court staff and personnel* under the judge's direction and control.
(5) A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, engage in speech, gestures, or other conduct that would reasonably be perceived as (1) bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, or (2) sexual harassment.
Perhaps the publicity that this case has received will remind all of us about the importance of civility in the face of adversity.
SOURCES: "Victorville Judge Faces Election After Unpopular Decision," http://cbs2.com/local/court.judge.victorville.2.1559280.html.