Placer County Judge under cloud declines to run

From the Sacramento Bee - February 2, 2012
Veteran political consultant Doug Elmets disagreed with O'Flaherty's opinion that he was a shoo-in to win a new term if he had sought one.

"Ultimately, he was going to pay at the ballot box. He served on a silver platter great material for anyone wanting to run against him," Elmets said. "You have to give him props for realizing that he was at the end of his career."

 

Embattled Placer Superior Court Judge Joseph O'Flaherty announced Wednesday that he will not seek a new six-year term in the upcoming June election.

O'Flaherty has the dubious distinction of being one of few California judges to be twice disciplined by the state commission overseeing judicial conduct.

In September, the state state Commission on Judicial Performance issued a public censure of O'Flaherty – the stiffest punishment available, short of removal from office.

"I've decided not to seek a fifth term," O'Flaherty told The Bee.

"It wasn't the key factor," O'Flaherty said of the Judicial Commission's 11-0 ruling. "I don't think anybody could have beat me."

He said after 24 years on the bench his heart wasn't in for another six years of service. As a Superior Court judge, O'Flaherty earns $178,000 annually. He was elected the first time in 1988.

Veteran political consultant Doug Elmets disagreed with O'Flaherty's opinion that he was a shoo-in to win a new term if he had sought one.

"Ultimately, he was going to pay at the ballot box. He served on a silver platter great material for anyone wanting to run against him," Elmets said. "You have to give him props for realizing that he was at the end of his career."

The most recent discipline stems from a 2008 small-claims case between Golden 1 Credit Union and a car dealer. The commission decided that O'Flaherty had overstepped his authority by rebuking the dealer and directing him to find a new branch.

O'Flaherty said his intent was to offer a casual warning. It was not his intent to convey that he was issuing a restraining order, the judge said.

In 2004, the commission publicly admonished O'Flaherty for giving prospective jurors permission to lie to get out of jury duty if they didn't want to publicly admit they had racial biases.

O'Flaherty said Wednesday he would support Placer County prosecutor Garen Horst as his replacement. Horst is the only other candidate to have taken out papers to run for the office, according to county elections officials.

The filing period begins Feb. 13 and, with the incumbent out of the race, ends March 14.

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