Family law attorneys not happy with Judge Hall’s new court assignment By Janene Scully/Times Staff Writer Northern Santa Barbara County family law attorneys worry that Superior Court Judge Diana Hall’s own domestic legal problems will interfere with her decisions in her new assignment on the bench. “I’ve been fielding a lot of calls from colleagues over concerns about the switch to sitting in civil court and her decision-making ability,” said Shannon Fernandez, who leads the Northern Santa Barbara County Bar Association. That group has about 65 members. Hall was recently arrested for drunken driving Dec. 21 in the Santa Ynez Valley after deputies were called to her residence regarding a domestic disturbance. Lab results revealed Hall had a blood alcohol content of .18. But Hall could also face additional charges resulting from the alleged disturbance involving a domestic partner, Deidra Dykeman, who is seeking a temporary restraining order against the judge. Court officials announced last week that Hall would be moved from Lompoc Superior Court to Santa Maria to handle civil cases. Along with contract disputes, her caseload there would include family law cases and restraining orders, legal sources said. “All the attorneys I talked to, but one, will not consent to having any case heard in front of her,” said Fernandez. She added that the association’s board met Wednesday night to discuss sending a letter outlining their concerns to Santa Barbara County Superior Court officials. The board decided to delay sending the letter until after the group’s full membership meets within the next month, according to Fernandez. The delay also gives the group time to review what charges the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office will file against Hall. A felony charge against Hall would make the attorneys’ concern moot, sources said. Assistant District Attorney Christie Stanley said Thursday she expects to make the announcement today. Private attorneys have suggested it would be prudent for Hall to hear traffic and small claims cases due to her own legal problems. She is shadowing Judge Rodney Melville to learn about her new duties this week while officials await word about what charges Hall will face. Hall’s own legal trouble arose out of stress from her job, according to her attorney William K. Gamble. Santa Barbara County public defenders reportedly were poised to file an affidavit of prejudice against Hall, seeking to disqualify her on their cases. Hall has gained a reputation as a hard-line judge, especially when it comes to multiple offenders and habitual drunken drivers “There was a lot of stress as a result of the public defenders’ hint of action,” said Gamble. Deputy public defenders said they were ordered not to talk to the media about this issue, referring inquiries to Assistant Public Defender Robert Helgesen or Public Defender James Egar. Neither returned phone calls for comment Thursday. Gamble said Hall continues to have strong support among community members. * Staff writer Janene Scully can be reached at (805) 739-2214 or by e-mail at janscully@pulitzer.net. :nav Source: http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2003/01/10/news/export8996.txt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *