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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

February, 2007

 

Private Party at Judge Lynn Duryee's House

Dear Judge Duryee:
I am a practicing attorney and member of the Marin County Bar Association ("MCBA"). I am writing to ask whether information I have received is correct.
As you are aware, seven or eight years ago Marin Judge Michael Dufficy was excoriated in a MCBA judicial survey, in the press, and in outside reports for hosting private weekend parties at his sheep ranch for attorneys who appeared in court before him.

I have been informed by various attorneys in this county that in late 2006 you, as Marin's Superior Court Presiding Judge and then-Family Court Presiding Judge, hosted a private cocktail party at your home for a select group of bench officers and attorneys. I am informed that you drew up the guest list. I am informed that the party was not open to the public or even all members of the MCBA. I am informed that the ostensible occasion of this private party was to "thank" certain attorneys who had served on a court committee or settlement conference panel. I am informed that you were joined at the party by other top members of our Marin Bench- namely Judge Verna Adams (Marin's Superior

Assistant Presiding Judge and current Family Court Supervising Judge), and Judge Michael Dufficy (Marin's current Criminal Court Supervising Judge) who reportedly acted as a bartender at the party. I am informed that your friend and new Family Court Commissioner Beverly Wood also attended. I am informed that attorneys who attended include those that appear in front of you and/or the other attending bench officers.

I know I can't believe everything I am told. I am hoping you tell me that, after all the brouhaha and suspicions caused by Judge Dufficy's private parties, my information is incorrect. From my perspective, a public function honoring attorneys who have volunteered their time is certainly an admirable event. A private cocktail party at a judge's home is quite another thing. This is especially so since not all attorneys in and outside the county are invited, have time, or choose to sit on a settlement panel, but they a) may well enjoy honoring those that do and b) could easily believe that those attorneys socializing with multiple bench officers at a private party held in a judge's home do or may enjoy special favor with the court. In fact, one attorney who attended the cocktail party commented to me that the Marin bench "still just doesn't get how bad this looks." After all these years, I have to question whether the bench "just doesn't get it", or simply doesn't care how bad this looks.

I am asking you to confirm whether the facts set forth in this letter are correct, and if not, to let me know what is incorrect.

Very truly yours,
BARBARA A. KAUFFMAN


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