A state judicial watchdog agency has publicly admonished Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. )DAVID BAUMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

BY RICHARD K. De ATLEY
rdeatley@pe.com
Published: 03 November 2011 12:12 PM

A state judicial watchdog agency has publicly admonished Riverside Count District Attorney Paul Zellerbach for actions he took as a judge involving the district attorney’s office, then run by Rod Pacheco, the man Zellerbach would defeat in an election.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance’s admonishment Thursday was prompted by complaints filed by Pacheco’s office before he left.

Zellerbach said the allegations brought to the commission were “politically motivated, obviously.”

Zellerbach improperly criticized the DA’s office from the bench during a March 18, 2009 hearing, the commission said.

At the same hearing, Zellerbach should have disclosed he might run against Pacheco. The hearing was over an embezzlement defendant’s motion calling for Pacheco to disclose campaign information from his 1996 state Assembly election run.

The defendant was treasurer of that campaign. She claimed Pacheco’s office should not be prosecuting her case.

During that hearing, Zellerbach said from the bench that Pacheco’s office was “not doing their job properly” and referred to the district attorney’s executive division as a “PR firm,” the commission said.

“I took the bait (during the hearing) and I shouldn’t have,” Zellerbach said by phone. “It was inappropriate, but at the same time it was all accurate.”

“The judge’s statements would reasonably be perceived as bias or prejudice against District Attorney Pacheco and his office,” the commission said.

The commission also said Zellerbach should not have appeared in 2009 before a deputy district attorneys union to urge them to withhold endorsement until all candidates had filed. Zellerbach said he was invited.

The commission, made up of 11 appointed justices, judges, attorneys and citizens, oversees the practices of the state’s judges. It has issued 68 public admonishments.

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