Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


Court stipulation requires changes in ballot statement claims; fundraiser for Issa and large donations raise further ethical questions

By Miriam Raftery

April 22, 2014 (San Diego) –Three candidates are vying for Superior Court Judge, seat 25, on the June ballot. The top two will face off in November.  The official ballot designations list them as Deputy Attorney General Brad Weinreb, attorney/fraud examiner Michele Hagan, and attorney/court volunteer Ken Gosselin.

Controversy has arisen surrounding Gosselin,  after Weinreb filed a legal challenge alleging exaggerated experience and education claims on Gosselin’s ballot statement. 

In addiiton, an ECM investigation has found that a fundraiser that Gosselin held at his home for a non-judicial candidate, Congressman Darrell Issa, may have violated California's Judicial Canon of Ethics, which prohibit judicial candidates from fundraising for or endorsing non-judicial candidates. A second Congressional candidate has also stated that Gosselin endorsed him.  Other violations may have occurred due to hefty campaign contributions made by Gosselin to the San Diego County Republican Party, which later endorsed him, and to the Lincoln Club.

Ballot statement corrections ordered

On April 4, 2014, Superior Court Judge Roland White accepted a stipulation signed by both parties that required Gosselin to correct statements made on his ballot statement regarding his experience, education, and qualifications.

Gosselin’s initial ballot statement asserted, “I have been a tough but fair volunteer Judge ‘pro tem’ in thousands of criminal and civil cases assigned by the San Diego County Superior Court.” He also claimed to be a “Harvard Law school trained mediator.”

But Gosselin heard only traffic and small claims cases as a volunteer Judge Pro Tem.

Asked about his experience, Gosselin  accused Weinreb of misleading the public.  “In fact I did hear thousands of civil and criminal cases. I heard thousands of traffic cases as well,” Gosselin said.”My service as the presiding officer of the court in these cases is a matter of public record, not open to interpretation. Research of this matter will prove these facts. I stipulated to this specific change to the ballot statement, from the word “criminal” to “traffic” in the interest of a mutually acceptable agreement with the plaintiff, not because the statement was false, which it was not.”

Public records disclosed by the court reveal that the cases heard by Gosselin were in fact limited to traffic and small claims.  A letter signed by Michael M. Roddy, executive officer for the Superior Court, states that while Gosselin has heard at least 11,597 such cases as a temporary Judge Pro Tem, “Mr. Gosselin has not been assigned to hear any  misdemeanor or felony cases. He has heard infraction cases in Traffic Court."  Gosselin has also never presided over a jury trial, Roddy added.

As for Gosselin’s education, he graduated from Laverne College of Law in 1980 and failed to pass the bar exam until 16 years later, Weinreb advised the Registrar.  Gosselin never attended Harvard Law School, other than taking a single mediation workshop.  Former state bar prosecutor Art Margolis told KPBS that a knowing misrepresentation would be a violation of the canon of ethics for judge candidates.

Gosselin responded, “In fact I did receive training at the Harvard University School of Law that is relevant to the duties of a Judge.  My certification from Harvard University in their program of mediation for attorneys has direct relevance to the office I am seeking election to and demonstrates my commitment to seek the finest in training and instruction in the practice of law.  One the same page of my website at the center of this supposed controversy,  I also clearly indicated that I received my law degree from The University of La Verne. In fact, all of my certifications and professional credentials appeared online since February 13th of this year.” 

That’s true, though prior to February 13, before Weinreb’s complaints came to light, the certificates were not on the website. 

Gosselin adds, “My opponent, through his counsel, claimed that I implied that I had “matriculated” from Harvard, but this claim is patently false and a base attempt to smear my character.  I never made any such claim or implied as much.”  Matriculated means enrolled at a college or university, according to the Webster’s Merriam dictionary. Gosselin may not have used that phrase but did repeat the “Harvard educated” phrase at campaign events prior to the legal challenge to his ballot statement, ECM has learned. 

Campaign fundraiser for ISSA, large donations and endorsement of non-judicial candidate raise additional ethics concerns

Judicial candidates and judges are prohibited by Canon 5 in the Judicial Canon of Ethics from endorsing  or fundraising non-judicial candidates.  Gosselin’s campaign committee forms, which he signed under penalty of perjury on July 21, 2013, indicate that he began accepting contributions in April 2013 and was thus a candidate subject to judicial canons of ethics. 

Gosselin’s own Facebook page includes a photo of himself hosting a fundraiser for Congressman Darrell Issa at Gosselin’s ranch  on November 16, 2013—an apparent ethical violation.

In response, Gosselin told ECM, “While my residence was used as the location for a political fundraising event, I did not participate in the making of any solicitation of any person to contribute funds. According to the clear language of the Canon itself, my actions were not a violation of the ethical limitations placed on candidates for Judge. “

However the Commission on Judicial Performance’s Annual Reports indicate that:

  • In 1992, a judge who invited judges and court commissioners to an open house for a candidate for a non-judicial office, on court stationary, was sent an advisory letter warning that he violated the code of ethics;
  • An advisory letter sent to another judge in 1992 found that the judge gave the appearance of soliciting contributions from attorneys and their clients for the election campaign of a candidate for a nonjudicial office.

The California Judicial Conduct Handbook specifically prohibits a judge from personally soliciting campaign contributions for nonjudicial elections. “Even the appearance of making such a solicitation would be grounds for discipline,” the handbook states.

Moreover, the California Judges’ Association Ethics Committee's website states that in March 2004, the CJA advised that a judge may not attend a fundraiser for a supervisor candidate held by the judge’s spouse at the judge’s home.

All judicial candidates receive a joint letter from the Commission on  Judicial Performance and the State Bar advising them of their responsibilities to comply with Judicial canons of ethics as well as campaign financing regulations, and of disciplinary proceedings they can face for violations. 

In addition, a new requirement this year is for all judicial candidates to complete a campaign ethics training online.

Gosselin also made $2,000 in donations to the San Diego Republican Party  in 2013 prior to declaring his candidacy, as well as two $400 donations ($800 total) to the Lincoln Club, a political organization, in late 2013-- after his candidacy had been announced. 

Judicial candidates are prohibited from donating more than $1,000 total in any calendar year to political candidates, parties or organizations, and also from making donations of more than $500 to any single political entity, per the code of Judicial ethics. Judicial candidates who made legal donations prior to their campaign are advised to ask that the excess amount be returned. 

In addition, Gosselin has yet another seeming ethics lapse.

"I have endorsed Ken Gosselin, and he has endorsed my campaign for the 53rd Congressional race," Joel Marchese, a Republican running against Susan Davis for Congress, told ECM. "Ken is a hard working Judge Pro Tem, and will do a great job as judge." 

Since judicial candidates are prohibited from endorsing non-judicial candidates, an endorsement by Gosselin of Marchese would be a violation of the judicial cannon of ethics. 

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.


Not honest in the election, EVEN WORSE in his Courtroom

As bad as this guy sounds on the campaign trail, he is simply horrible on the bench. I have set up a website www.kennethgosselin2014.com just to focus on the "anyone but him" choice in his campaign. Ken Gosselin achieve Law Enforcement's endorsement because they make it blindly on conviction upholding statistics, which is not too difficult to see why he chose to serve as a volunteer in Traffic Court. His honor reduced many fines to be payable, but everyone I saw go through his court was "guilty". I'd like to get insights from others who have suffered the indignity of Gosselin's gavel. You can reach me via comments on my Facebook page Ken_Gosselin_unfit_for_Judges_Bench