Judge retires after panel cites effort to interfere in cases

A Northern California judge retired under pressure and was publicly admonished by the state's disciplinary commission Wednesday after it determined he improperly attempted to interfere with two different investigations and showed bias against local prosecutors.

Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti will retire Oct. 31 and has been on leave since Sept. 11 under an agreement with the Commission on Judicial Performance.

He promised to never again serve as a judge in exchange for the commission not pursuing its investigation beyond the public admonishment for misconduct that the panel said “reflected a loss of the neutrality required of judges.”

Tamietti said in a statement that he accepts the outcome but believes he properly objected when he perceived that the “community (was) being put at risk by the elected District Attorney’s inaction in two very serious felony cases. ... (M)y conscience required me to confront that injustice directly and without hesitation.”

Tamietti, who has been a judge since 2003, became upset last year when he felt the district attorney's office was taking too long to consider formal charges against a man who had been arrested and released on suspicion of annoying or molesting a child, a misdemeanor.

“This level of ‘service’ is far below what the citizens of this community expect and deserve,” he wrote in one of several email exchanges with the prosecutor assigned to the case, copying in District Attorney Clifford Newell.

When Newell objected that Tamietti was attempting to interfere with his consideration of the case, Tamietti responded “Baloney” and said Newell's “inaction ... puts this community at risk.”

Newell's office filed a felony complaint in the case two weeks later and asked Tamietti to recuse himself based on the emails. Tamietti then suggested the deputy prosecutor might have committed perjury and could face a State Bar investigation, and the commission found he improperly assigned a different judge to the case.

In the second instance, in 2013 and 2014, the commission found Tamietti improperly questioned Newell's decision to drop a battery charge against another suspect based on conflicting witness accounts. He accused Newell of “a slipshod” investigation and decision-making.

In a further email exchange in February, this one over a pending state law doing away with cash bail, Tamietti cited "more fecklessness from Newell,” in what the commission found was another instance of discourteous and biased behavior.

Tamietti was disciplined last year for discourteous remarks about a lawyer who appeared before him in a civil case.

Newell did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.