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Judicial Candidate Accuses Judge Of Being A Criminal On Billboards

Above: Federal prosecutor Carla Keehn, hoping to unseat Judge Lisa Schall in the June primary election, put four billboards around San Diego accusing her opponent of being a criminal, May 8, 2014.

In the upcoming San Diego June primary election, federal prosecutor Carla Keehn is hoping to unseat Judge Lisa Schall, who has spent three decades on the Superior Court bench.

Aired 5/8/14 on KPBS News.

A normally little-noticed race for San Diego Superior Court judge has turned nasty. A challenger has placed four billboards around the county, calling the incumbent a criminal.

Keehn, a former U.S. Army captain, has put a stark message on billboards above four intersections along Interstate 5 and downtown: “Vote for Carla Keehn ... the only candidate for this office not convicted of a crime.”

According to court records, Schall was charged in October 2007 with a DUI, but pleaded guilty to a lesser reckless-driving charge six months later.

"And this is something that was delayed right before the last election," Keehn said, "and the first time it came out was a year after the last election, and nobody filed against her because nobody even knew that this case existed."

The charge was Schall’s third admonishment by the state Commission on Judicial Performance. In 1995, she was reprimanded in a juvenile dependency case, and in 1999, she was publicly admonished for her abuse of the contempt power.

"Niney-nine percent of judges are never admonished during the course of their careers," Keehn said.

Keehn said the billboard speaks for itself.

“I believe the public has a right to have judges that uphold the law and not break the law,” Keehn said. “I think that’s a very important fact for any public official.”

Calls by KPBS to Schall were not returned.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 8, 2014 at 5:47 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

While I think it is probably time for Ms. Schall to go, I disagree with Ms. Kheen.

“I believe the public has a right to have judges that uphold the law and not break the law,” said Keehn.


I thought we live in a society where, once you serve your debt to society you are able to move on and get all your rights back.

Maybe it would be good to have some judges on the bench who have actually experienced the other side so they really understand the consequences of taking away someone's freedom.

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Avatar for user 'famous21'

famous21 | May 8, 2014 at 8:51 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Hello Peking Duck:

As you are aware, a Judge is an Officer of the Court, and must be held to higher standards than a regular layman citizen. Superior Court Judges are judicial administrators, who make important, legal decisions daily, which impact the lives of many.

Thus, a higher standard of ethics is not only expected from those who hand down the rule of law on many, but is mandated by State and Local Rules.

The time has come for Judge Schall to be voted out of office, so she can move to the next stage of her legal career.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 8, 2014 at 10:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago


We are all human beings, judges included. I think there can be corrupt judges who have never convicted of any crime, and it think there can be fair judges who have criminal activity in their past assuming they have paid their debt to society and lived as law abiding citizens since.

I just don't agree that having a criminal conviction should preclude someone from being a judge.

I want judges on the bench who see themselves as equals to other people they are making life altering decisions for, not who see themselves as some sort of superior beings.

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Avatar for user 'enjoyPB'

enjoyPB | May 8, 2014 at 10:55 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm with Peking_Duck on this one. Humans make mistakes and should be forgiven. Perhaps one of the biggest problems in our nation with courts and politicians is that opponents are so quick to throw stones.

I'd much rather have a person in a position of authority who made mistakes and somehow atoned for their wrong than one that feels superior because they somehow got away without any record, and then lets that attitude permeate their rulings and decisions upon others.

I'll be you $100 every time Ms. Keehn gets behind the wheel she breaks at least one law. Nobody's perfect Ms. Keehn. Win your seat talking about why you would make a better Judge. We need real people >>>serving<<< the community, not bullies.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | May 9, 2014 at 8:21 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

While I am far from being a "perfect" human being, I know that I've made mistakes in my life and I've learned from them. When interviewing for jobs, most employers would prefer to hire someone that's learned from their mistakes and will be a better employee than someone who has never made any mistakes before in their lives.

30 years as a judge and the only thing on her is a single DUI from 2007 (I'm sure if she was like Ted Kennedy, she would have gotten more DUIs in the past 7 years) and some admonishments.

I sometimes screw up at work and I've been "admonished" a couple of times in my 23 year career (wow, this lady's been a Judge longer than I've been in my career) and guess what, I learned from that and haven't screwed up again!

But, I do like Carla Keehn's credentials. Ms. Keehn is certainly qualified for this job.

I just wish Ms. Keehn hadn't resorted to "dirty politics" to try to win this election. But, I guess that's just the status quo in today's politics.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 9, 2014 at 8:55 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Eddie, I agree with you. I do like her credentials and think she is probably better qualified, but I wanted to speak out against her tactics. They are slimy.

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Avatar for user 'SDAttorney'

SDAttorney | May 9, 2014 at 12:05 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

If this were Schall's only transgression, forgiveness would be reasonable. Problem is it's not. She's demonstrated a pattern of misconduct exemplifying much deeper behavioral problems. Multiple admonishments and far more litigant complaints than usual for any judges. The behind the scenes stories on Schall are reported elsewhere on the net.

She has explained her drunk driving conviction arose during her divorce. Understandable that someone would be stressed out in a divorce for sure, and we certainly need kinder judges on that bench. But its odd that at the time she was re-assigned to a divorce court she behaved abusively to litigants in that courtroom too. Google her track record with divorce clients and read for yourself--it's not pretty.

If it were true that being in on the receiving end of the arm of the law would make her more understanding of litigants who themselves are enduring life crises, you'd think she would have been even more kind to litigants in a divorce court. She was not. One attorney who reported her misconduct to the CJP was ultimately jailed--the story on Angiemedia explains the details.

Whatever tactics are used to expose the truth about her, they have exposed the truth. This judge is a criminal, repeatedly admonished by disciplinary boards, is the center of abundant complaints and disdain, and appears emotionally unstable. With a highly capable alternative, why wouldn't we give someone else a shot?

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Avatar for user 'ccfcparent'

ccfcparent | May 9, 2014 at 8:31 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

@Peking Duck--What would you call Schall's judge friends threatening Keehn's supporters from the Tom Homann LGBT civil rights organization that endorsed, then withdrew their endorsement of Keehn after Judge Rosenthal pestered them? What would you call the judges pressuring Clear Channel to take down the billboards only two days after they were put up? Is that a San Diego Superior Court bench that's ethical? Fair? Deserving of re-election?

Story is here:

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Avatar for user 'Anonymous2'

Anonymous2 | May 10, 2014 at 9:51 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

I am pleased that somebody has been getting the truth about Judge Schall out there, even when that truth might be offensive. The judge could have hurt or killed children when driving down the wrong side of the road loaded. I doubt any of us non-judges would get such a sweetheart deal on their criminal conviction if we got caught with 0.09 BAC.

Schall has distinguished herself as one of the worst judges in California. In the over 120-year history of the S.D. Superior Court, no other judge has even been thrice admonished by our Commission on Judicial Performance. Checking the admonishments on the CJP website, out of the over 1,600 judges now sitting in California, Judge Schall is tied only with Judge Bruce Mills of Contra Costa County as the most admonished judge.

In early 2011, Judge Shall was reversed by our appeals court in three out of three published opinions. Nine of the ten sitting justices on the Court of Appeal held that Schall did not follow the requirements of the law, disregarded jurisdiction of other courts, "apparently misunderstood the proper legal standards to apply", had "an erroneous understanding of the applicable law" and bases decisions on improper criteria or incorrect legal assumptions.

That is their judgment. Schall is overturned so often, it is surprising she doesn't walk on her hands. My judgment is that Keene is the only way to go in this election. Nearly 30 years of persistent complaints to state officials and the appeals court means something is very wrong with this judge. I would rather leave any case of mine up to a COIN TOSS than leave it to Schall to judge. She really is that awful, a petty tyrant.

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Avatar for user 'MrsKramer'

MrsKramer | May 10, 2014 at 1:32 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Petty tyant indeed!

What people need to understand about Judge Schall is that she is an inept judge with a low emotional IQ, to put it kindly. She has a criminal record for drunk driving, but many feel that she should have others for her transgressions of the law over the years.

She is currently a named defendant in a federal racketeering suit brought by the California Coalition of Families and Children – for her unethical behavior in family court.

In other matters:

How would you feel if you were a child and a judge gave custody of you to your sexual abuser, like Schall did? Would you think she would be charged as a contributor to your abuse – if she weren’t a judge?

Or how would you feel if you refused to re-enter her courtroom for fear you would yell at her for not letting you speak – so she sent a sheriff deputy out into the hall to drag you off to jail for five days, like Schall did? Would you think she would be charged for your false imprisonment – if she weren’t a judge?

Or how would you feel if you were exercising your Constitutional right to run for public office against Schall, and the local judges committed unethical act to try to keep Schall in office. They threatened Keehn’s endorsers that the local judges would retaliate against them if they endorsed Keehn. They wanted Schall to be able to run, once again, unopposed. Just like she has done for nearly thirty years.

Keehn is right that Schall is a criminal and the public has a right to know it. Just like the billboards have come down by pressure on the sign company; the (prior) Keehn endorsers also kowtowed to the bullying judges threats.

This is not indicative of an honest judge and her bullying peers knowing or caring to uphold the law and protect voters rights. Below is the email Ms. Keehn received on February 10 describing the wrath of retaliation that would occur should she continue to run for office against the inept and compromised Judge Lisa Schall:

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 10, 2014 at 10:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Judge Schall may very well be insufficient to serve as judge, but that still doesn't justify the use of billboards Kheen to publicly shame someone.

As far as I'm concerned, both of these people seem I appropriate to be judges.

I'll probably just leave this section blank on my absentee ballot.

I consider judges to be amongst the most important professions in our society, and I think we need to have people with humility on the bench.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | May 11, 2014 at 5:26 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

E89 "While I am far from being a "perfect" human being, I know that I've made mistakes in my life and I've learned from them. When interviewing for jobs, most employers would prefer to hire someone that's learned from their mistakes and will be a better employee than someone who has never made any mistakes before in their lives."

What about someone who can learn from the mistakes of others? It doesn't seem to follow that if someone makes a grand mistake (or two?) and then is punished they understand the law better... one can understand it well enough to not transgress in the first place without the need for punishment.
Do you view any particular crime as being permanently disqualifying for work in law enforcement or is all forgiven once a prison sentence is completed?

As to the idea of name-calling prior to elections... I am becoming numb to it. My standard for acceptable political advertising has faded from 'tasteful' to 'accurate'.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 12, 2014 at 10:40 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

If this guy's going to be up there, sentencing sad saps on DUI, I say no, absolutely not.

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Avatar for user 'GMFuzy'

GMFuzy | May 12, 2014 at 12:03 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Not exactly a simple "accusation" if she was convicted/ admonished or whatever-
I had a judge in civil court in El Cajon tell me that I wasn't allowed to speak at the hearing, he said "I don't care about your side of the story I dont like the way you look and don't want to look at your face anymore".... When I tried to report him they told me he was "technically retired, and it would be pointless". I appealed and requested another Judge but it was the same dude again- he threatened to have me held in contempt for "disrespecting his original decision". Needless to say I lost the case against my pedophile former landlord. The courts here are crazy. I even had a police report from when I caught her taking nude pictures of my 3 year old and a signed affidavit from the responding officer who saw the pics on the camera. But I wasn't allowed to present any evidence.
There seem to be a lot of crooked judges here in San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'Simshona'

Simshona | May 12, 2014 at 3:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

@enjoyPB: "We need real people >>>serving<<< the community, not bullies." My definition of bullies would be someone who uses their power to cower others into submission, as Judge Schall has apparently done in this election by first trying to have sitting judges put pressure on Keehn's endorsers to get her not to run, then bullying an organization into rescinding their endorsement, and finally putting pressure on Clear Channel so billboards are taken down. The comments made elsewhere apparently by attorneys with experience of Schall's chambers also describe her as a "tyrant", so she may well deserve the label of bully, not her opponent.

The judgement and character of judges candidates, as measured by their deeds, does matter to many of us in the voting public and we would never have known if Keehn had not brought it up. This may not be the only criteria any given voter choses to cast their ballot, but surely we deserve to know?

@PekingDuck: "I do like her credentials and think she is probably better qualified, but I wanted to speak out against her tactics. They are slimy." Is it "slimy" for a sitting judge to use the power of her office to pressure you not to run? To try to hide a conviction which may be relevant to many in the public? What would you have Keehn do to publicize her opponent's criminal record? Would it be OK if it were a pamphlet in the mail instead of a billboard, or is it the very notion of pointing to a criminal record in an individual charged with implementation of the criminal justice system that you find "slimy"? Personally, I am completely outraged that Schall has any defenders on this one, as if drunk driving was some sort of "no big deal" crime - wait till it affects someone you know and you too will have a visceral reaction to a judge, of all things, getting away with it.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 12, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

simshona, I'm not defending Schall, the more I hear about her she seems inept, and not because of her DUI conviction.

I still stand by my general belief that a person convicted of a crime should be able to become a judge - or become anything else for that matter - if they have paid their debt to society.

When did we stop being a society of second chances?

Judges are supposed to be impartial, and to me a judicial candidate suggesting that someone with a past crime isn't equal to them and shouldn't be allowed to hold the same job as them tells me this judicial candidate will show bias on the bench in favor of prosecutors.

If I were applying for a job, saying "I haven't been convicted of a crime" wouldn't cut it. I would have to articulate my credentials, and I think Ms. Keehn would be better of running on her experience instead of running on "elect me, I wasn't convicted of anything but this other person was".

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Avatar for user 'GMFuzy'

GMFuzy | May 12, 2014 at 7:21 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

@Peking_Duck_SD I think most people look at her being a bit of a hypocrite- she seems really unstable and for lack of a better term "Shifty/Shady" I believe in a fair and impartial judicial system; she is obviously not a member of that community.
I have a painter buddy that lost his job due to a dui why shouldn't a "judge" lose her place on the bench? in addition to her other screw ups and outbursts I feel it's an example of her character.
Don't get me wrong I drink like a fish - but I wouldn't even hop on my beach cruiser drunk. She apparently makes bad decisions both personally and professionally.

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Avatar for user 'Zone11'

Zone11 | May 13, 2014 at 5:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

The issue isn't with the DUI, it's the acceptance of a plea to reckless driving and the delay of the actions that smells a bit. And now, since Schall should properly recuse herself from any cases involving DUI / reckless driving / and any case involving a plea bargain, she has made herself considerably less useful as a judge and isn't really earning her pay and pulling her load in the system.

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