Two California judges will keep their jobs after being censured by a state judicial commission for having sex in their chambers.
The decisions signed Tuesday for both Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner and Kern County Superior Court Judge Cory Woodward are the harshest punishment for an elected judge without taking them off the bench.
Both Steiner and Woodward acted “irresponsible” and showed “improper conduct by judges,” according to the Commission on Judicial Performance, by having sex with women in their private chambers connected to a courtroom.
The documents detail how Woodward outwardly fought tooth-and-nail to keep his court clerk assigned to him because they were in the throes of an affair.
It was a phone call from his clerk’s husband to Woodward’s superiors that fueled rumors that the judge and clerk had an inappropriate relationship from July 2012 to May 2013.
The relationship drew complaints that the clerk was openly “flirtatious” with Woodward while court was in session, but behind closed doors, she and Woodward had sex in his court chamber, the documents show.
Their sexual relationship was apparently witnessed on one occasion during a break when a person lingering in the room saw Woodward make “an inappropriate sexual gesture” toward the clerk.
The clerk was eventually reassigned in April 2013 when another judge called Woodward out on his behavior and said the “problem is people think something is going on between the two of you.”
The findings reveal Steiner’s sexual activity in a judge’s chamber as well, including his escapades with two women on separate occasions who were former students of his at Chapman School of Law.
He had sex with a former intern in early 2012 and later wrote her a letter of recommendation for a position in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, but she never made it past the first interview.
He then had sex with a second woman in his chambers twice during the work day which “risked exposing court employees who might overhear or otherwise become aware of the libidinous conduct.”
The second woman was an attorney and it was previously believed Steiner had a “quid pro quo” arrangement with her to get her a job with the county, but the commission did not find any evidence of this allegation.
The commission also wrote Steiner failed to remove himself from cases involving an attorney with whom he was close friends with.
Even though Steiner nor Woodward will continue to keep their positions with salary and benefits, they will both need to earn enough votes in the next round of local elections.