Retired San Bernardino County Judge Paul M. Bryant Jr. Admonished by Judicial Panel

A public admonishment was issued Monday for a now-retired San Bernardino County judge who called one attorney “rude and obnoxious” and said another’s statement was “one of the dumbest things I ever heard a lawyer say.”

The admonition also said Superior Court Judge Paul M. Bryant Jr. declared from the bench that a prosecutor had “rocks for brains.”The attorney for Bryant said the jurist has expressed regret for his behavior on the bench. In the “rocks for brains” statement, Bryant said he did not recall “using these precise words,” but apologized “if he did use words to this effect.”

The Commission on Judicial Performance, which oversees the practices of the state’s judges, said Bryant “failed to be patient, dignified and courteous toward individuals with whom he dealt in an official capacity.”

The behavior violates one of the canons, or rules, that govern judicial behavior in California, said the five-page admonishment from the commission, which oversees the practices of the state’s judges.

The admonishment includes five instances that summarize exchanges with attorneys or statements from the bench that Bryant made that the commission saw as violations. They took place from 2005 to 2007, when he was an active judge.

Bryant’s attorney, Heather L. Rosing, said the judge “has a great deal of respect for all of the litigants and counsel who have appeared before him. To the extent he has done anything that crossed the line of propriety, he has publicly expressed his regret.”

Rosing, in a telephone interview from San Diego, said “there was no connection whatsoever” between the commission’s actions and Bryant’s retirement.

She said Bryant first got word he was under commission scrutiny one month after his retirement. Bryant agreed to the commission’s admonishment, Rosing said. “This is the end of the matter,” she said.

In a July 2005 exchange with an attorney in a civil court hearing, Bryant apparently did not exhaust the matter before him, which included a motion hearing and then a case management conference.

Bryant dealt with the motion, but moved on to another matter without addressing the case management questions.

When attorney LaVonna Hayashi tried to bring up the remaining matter with “Your Honor, I’m sorry,” Bryant “In a harsh and threatening manner … ordered Ms. Hayashi to sit down ‘or we’ll address it in another fashion.’ ”

Bryant later told Hayashi in open court he found her to be “rude and obnoxious.” He vacated the motion ruling he made and recused himself from the case. His actions made it appear he was acting “out of pique,” the commission said.

In February 2007 Bryant made a comment that a prosecutor, in discussions with court staff, mistakenly believed that Bryant planned to review a box of defense material during the day. In open court, Bryant referred to prosecutor’s notion as “one of the dumbest things I ever heard a lawyer say.”

The commission said Bryant has acknowledged that his words were “harsh and sarcastic, and that he has stated in retrospect he would have handled the situation differently.”

Rosing said Bryant is currently on the bench in San Bernardino County in the state’s assigned judges program, but plans to go into private mediation.

“He was surprised by how it looked on the transcripts,” she said of the comments cited by the commission. “He is a good judge and has a sterling reputation on the San Bernardino County bench.”

Bryant was appointed to the municipal court bench in 1988 and was elevated to superior court in 1989 by appointment. He retired Jan. 26, and the commission notified him of its preliminary investigation one month later.

A public admonishment is a step up in severity from private admonishments or letters judges may receive from the commission.

The commission said Bryant received an advisory letter in 1991 for making disparaging remarks about an attorney in front of a jury.


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