On Friday, February 23, 2024, Judge Greg Kreis of Humboldt County Superior Court in Northern California filed his formal response to an ethics complaint that was lodged against him by the Commission on Judicial Performance.

The complaint, filed earlier that month, contained 19 allegations of misconduct against Kreis relating to both his behavior before and during his time serving as a judge since 2017. However, in his answer, Kreis’ attorney James Murphy denied the vast majority of the claims and attempted to provide additional context around some of the more serious accusations.

The complaints centered around allegations that Kreis lied about a workplace relationship, failed to disclose conflicts of interest in cases involving friends, sexually assaulted two women, drove under the influence, used illegal drugs, and made inappropriate comments in court.

Regarding the misconduct charges related to undisclosed relationships influencing his cases, Murphy argued that none of the specified instances warranted recusal on Kreis’ part since the litigants were past professional colleagues and not close personal friends. Some matters were also characterized as routine rather than contested.

On the accusations of a sexual assault at a party before becoming a judge, Murphy firmly denied this as “offensive” and “false.” For an incident where Kreis allegedly slapped a woman’s buttocks without consent, Murphy acknowledged it occurred but maintained it was a joking “man hug” that Kreis misread and immediately apologized for.

Other denials included regular cocaine use before his judgeship, which Murphy blamed on sour grapes from a former colleague. Kreis also denied driving with an open alcohol container, as alleged during a contentious divorce.

The response admitted to a past workplace relationship but claimed it began after the relevant events. Murphy characterized many of the complaints as stemming from bitterness over professional dealings.

Now that Kreis has issued his formal rebuttal challenging the accusations, the next step will be a hearing before a panel that will submit findings to the Commission on Judicial Performance. That body could ultimately impose sanctions up to removal from office if any allegations are found substantiated. The process is not expected to conclude before the upcoming primary election.

Judge Kreis was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on May 22, 2017, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge W. Bruce Watson.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.