On Wednesday, January 31, 2024, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that recently censured San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore had denied allegations of making racist and insensitive comments. Judge Shore was accused of making inappropriate remarks in his courtroom on previous occasions as well as during a private meeting with two leaders of the San Diego Office of the Public Defender.
The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured Judge Shore in December for skipping 155 days of work. The commission found his actions violated the Code of Judicial Ethics and undermined public confidence in the judiciary.
Last month, Deputy Public Defender Abram Genser filed a motion to disqualify Judge Shore from presiding over a Racial Justice Act motion in a homicide case, citing both the censure and alleged prejudiced statements. In support of the motion, Katherine Braner and Megan Marcotte, the interim and alternate heads of the Public Defender’s office at the time, submitted a sworn declaration recounting racist comments made by Judge Shore during a private meeting.
Specifically, Braner and Marcotte declared that during the meeting to inform them of the upcoming censure, Judge Shore downplayed the conduct leading to the sanction. They also alleged he compared Palestinians in Gaza to “our Mexicans” who cross the border to work on U.S. farms. Further, the chiefs claimed Judge Shore stated tenants have “too many rights.”
In his response denying the disqualification motion, Judge Shore wrote that some of his prior comments in court were accurately portrayed in transcripts but denied any bias or prejudice. He also denied making the specific statements alleged during the private meeting with Braner and Marcotte, stating the Gaza comparison comment was untrue and that tenants’ rights were discussed in a different context.
Judge Shore maintained that recusal was unnecessary and that he could remain impartial. However, Paul Rodriguez, who became head of the Public Defender’s office after the meeting, supported the sworn allegations made by his predecessors. The ultimate decision on disqualifying Judge Shore from the case will now be made by another judge based on the submissions from both sides.
If disqualified, a new judge will handle the homicide motion, while Judge Shore will be removed only from that individual case. His denial of inappropriate comments also keeps him presiding over other matters rather than facing broader recusal. The process to appoint the judge who will rule on disqualification could involve an agreement between the prosecution and defense or a selection by the state Judicial Council, potentially including a judge from another county.
Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune