Judge admonished for poor treatment of women court workers

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge has been admonished by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for three incidents of inappropriate behavior toward women working in his courtroom in 2014, the commission announced today.

Judge Joseph Bergeron at one point threw crumpled up calendars at a court clerk, loudly complained about another clerk to her supervisor over the phone in front of court staff and offered a deputy district attorney a tip for bringing him a cup of coffee, according to the commission.

The first incident happened on Aug. 28, 2014, when a clerk not regularly assigned to Bergeron's courtroom was working.

As he was presiding over two criminal matters, the clerk went to retrieve a file from the judge. Bergeron asked her if she plays baseball, and then hit her in the chest with a crumpled calendar. He did the same thing
later in the day.

On Oct. 7, 2014, a different clerk was assigned to Bergeron's courtroom and she arrived before the judge did. A jury panel was scheduled to arrive between 9 and 9:15 a.m., but Bergeron called the clerk's station at
9:30 or 9:45 and asked the clerk to call him back, but didn't leave a callback number.

When he arrived at court, he called the clerk's supervisor and loudly complained, so the clerk and others in the courtroom could hear him, that he didn't receive a call back.

"She didn't call back. She didn't even pick up the message. You are putting people in here who can't follow instructions," he said, according to commission documents.

The third incident happened on Dec. 18, 2014, when a deputy district attorney was in his courtroom's conference room with a cup of coffee.

Bergeron asked her if her office was across the hall and whether there was coffee there, implying he wanted her to bring him a cup.

After a sarcastic exchange, she went to get him a cup of coffee, and he told her if he had any money, he'd give her a tip.

According to the commission, when she returned, she said, "Here is your coffee. Is there anything else I can do for you, Your Honor? Can I iron your shirts?"

Bergeron responded, "Well, at noon if it's still raining outside I can give you my keys, and you can go get my car."

"That may be a man's job," she said, then left. 

Bergeron acknowledged his actions were discourteous, undignified, and in the case of the missed phone call, an overreaction. The incidents weren't the first complaints about Bergeron's behavior: in October 2013, six women who worked in the court complained that Bergeron had treated them in a rude, abrasive and condescending manner, according to the commission.

Bergeron was previously admonished earlier that same year.

The judge called an attorney back to his courtroom after the attorney had a confrontation with the court clerk, holding a proceeding on the attorney's actions that he lacked the authority for.

He was privately admonished for embroilment and abuse of authority, according to the commission. Bergeron has been a judge in San Mateo County for 18 years and started a new term in January 2015.