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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2004

Why Did Judge Taylor Resign?
By Jim Scanlon

 

   Lynn O'Malley Taylor the first woman elected to the Marin Superior Court resigned suddenly last month after serving since 1982.  As is usual with CEOs and other high officials who resign unexpectedly the reasons given for leaving are vague (spend more time with family, travel etc. ...) and, given the secrecy of all matters internal to Superior Court, there is, quite naturally,  speculation as to why she is left.
   Judge Taylor recently presided over a long, unusual, case  involving a negligence law suit against the county over a social worker who "helped" an elderly "friend" suffering from dementia, that she had once supervised, in changing her will to bequeath her, the social worker, her Kentfield home. The county paid for the Social Worker's legal costs for the two month long trial.
   Because of the narrow scope of judge Taylor's instructions to the jury, it came in with a verdict that favored the county and the social worker. But the jury, was scandalized, stating it had found the social worker's  actions "outrageous" and that "there should be consequences".
   After the jury was dismissed, the judge unexpectedly ruled that she had made several mistakes and ordered that a new trial to begin in September. This action outraged the County Counsel who tried the case and presumably the County Administrator's Office whose victory was suddenly snatched from them. This case might have influenced the judge in deciding to resign.
   But there might be something else. The Coastal Post has reason to believe that there are at least three official complaints-and possibly many more-for judicial conduct against at least four sitting Superior Court judges including Taylor concerning negligent supervision of William McGivern who resigned suddenly last December.
   McGivern who was appointed judge in 1997 by Governor Pete Wilson reportedly suffered for years from memory lapses in court: not recognizing attorney's or what day of the week it was. He was allegedly frequently confused and  lost his way in the Hall of Justice and required help from his staff in getting to his office. This information was leaked to the Marin Independent Journal, reportedly from testimony in a stress disability hearing of the judge's court reporter.  McGivern made a statement to a reporter that he had undergone a neurological examination "... at the suggestion of other members of the Marin bench based on another allegation by another party".
   McGivern had been supervised during the last two years of his service to Marin by four judges, Taylor, Terrence Boren, Stephen Graham and Verna Adams and all of them, to one extent or another, might be subject to discipline by the California Commission on Judicial Performance which invariably acts without publicity, in strict secrecy. Only in exceptionally serious cases are disciplinary proceedings made public and only in the rarest of cases are judges or commissioners removed from office. The only clue of discipline is a form letter thanking the complainant(s).
   As the Coastal Post wrote in April 2004, (Did Judge Dufficy Lie...), "It is a disgrace that McGivern's alleged Alzheimer's Disease, which can only be diagnosed by medical experts, was leaked to the press... It seems that one can learn of one judges alleged mental status, but not of another's disciplinary record. One is guarded like state secrets, the other flaunted publicly in newspaper articles. McGivern's privacy and confidentiality were grievously violated..."

 

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