In its continuing role as judicial watchdog, the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabulities and Tenure yesterday condemned the past intemperate conduct of a sitting judge but then approved the judge for an automatic reappointment to a new, 15-year term is no repetion.
The decision concerning D.C. Superior Court Jedge Alfred Burka said Burka's past conduct was attributable to stress in his personal life and that Burka had since acknowledged such conduct and pledged to avoid it in the future. The Commissionsaid it would watch him closely to make sure there is no repetition.
The report on Burka was one of three released by the judicial tenure commission yesterday. All three judges cited automatically retain their seats on the bench as a result of the findings. Each report, however, suthority further than has been done in the past.
Besides Burka, the judges involved in yesterday's report to theWhite House are:
D.C. Appeals Court Judge Catherine B. Kelly, who is the first appellate judge to undergo the commission's scrutiny. The commission said the "work product," rather than the demeanor, of an appellate judge is the most important measure of the judge's fitness for reappointment. It said Judge Kelly was "exceptionally well qualified for reappointment."
D.C. Superior Court Judge John D. Fauntleroy. The commission said Fauntleroy waited late to file his request for reappointment because he was "undecided" whether to seek the new term, but that he was "well qualified" for appointment.
The commission did question whether Fauntleroy was involved in too many outside activities, including his role as commanding officer of a U.S. Naval Reserve detachment.
Conceding that such outside activities "often brings credit to the judiciary," the commission said such activities "should never be peritted to become excessive."
Judge Burka, who has been involved in several controversial incidents in the past, clearly gave the commission the most concern.
Burka was advised by the commission of four areas of concern about his conduct after "a substantial number of persons" advised the panel that Burka appeared to be "totally lacking in judicial temperament."
The panel said in its report that the persons described Burka as "erratic, totally unpredictable, offensive to counsel and clients and aberrational." It said the conduct involved Burka's "unnecessarily harsh and inappropriate language" and his expressio of personal views concerning the "desirability and efficacy of the proceedings that were taking place in his court."
When confronted with the accusations, Judge Burka agreed that his conduct in hate past was wrong, the commission added.
"The commission was impressed with Judge Burka's ready recognition of the impropriety of his conduct in these respects and his willingness to restrain himself in the future," the report said.
The panel said Burka had been through personal tragedies, including the serious illness of his son, that had affected his temperament. Because of the use of his son, Burka has forsaken vacations and luncheon recesses and worked long hours in the past, the commission said.
"The commission concluded that the judge's conduct, though strongly to be condemned, was the product of uncontrollable factors with prospects for alleviation and not symptoms of an inherently malevolent and intractable character," the commission said.