Solano County Family Law Judge Christine Carringer has been the subject of a Notice of Intent to Recall in 2017, and in April 2018 Articles of Impeachment have been filed against her. Carringer has come under intense scrutiny for her alleged rampant disregard for family law code and judicial ethics, especially when ruling in cases involving alleged domestic violence.
Litigants have been scampering to disqualify Carringer from presiding over their cases, because the outcomes are allegedly predictable based on gender. Yet, in what may be true Judge Carringer form, there is the perception that she is fighting back. As the acting Supervising Family Law Judge, it seems she may be writing or re-writing the rules regarding 170.6 judicial disqualifications that specifically command her disqualification.
A party to an action has a statutory right to summarily disqualify a judge who has been assigned to the case as permitted by CCP 170.6. While a judge is expected to accept the disqualification with grace, it’s been said that Judge Carringer does not.
One litigant states that Judge Carringer was apoplectic in the face of disqualification and proceeded to berate her in open court. Another litigant states that she is afraid to file a disqualification against Judge Carringer for warranted fear of retaliation. Still another litigant, who’s case is assigned to Judge Carringer, says she scared to press the issue of the judge’s disqualification with her attorney because he may drop her as client based on his own fears of the bench at hand.
In spite of the potential or perceived consequences, some litigants have bravely sought Judge Carringer’s disqualification. Those litigants say they want a fair and impartial judge and believe that a 170.6 can afford them that right. Yet, suddenly, there are claims that it has become a challenge to file a disqualification against Judge Carringer.
The procedure that has been previously adhered to regarding disqualifying judges in Family Law seems to have been modified since Judge Carringer became the source of multiple
filings. Litigants claim they are being turned away at the clerk’s office when they attempt to disqualify Judge Carringer. They claim they are being questioned about the filing of the motion, treated sternly, made to feel uncomfortable and forced to make multiple trips to file the disqualification. In some cases, their disqualifications are not being accepted at all.
If what litigants are saying is true, who could have orchestrated such a change in process? Is there a separate set of rules that govern disqualifying Judge Carringer from a presiding over a matter versus a judge in criminal or probate? Perhaps an audit and an investigation can answer those questions.
Assuming the rules have been followed, a 170.6 challenge to a judge should be accepted with equanimity and the court should not discourage such a challenge. A Family Law litigant should have no fear of public reprimand, retaliation or obstacles in deciding to challenge a judge.
While the public outcry against Judge Carringer indicates a lack of confidence in her ability to be a fair judge, the right to disqualify her is a restoration of a confidence in the judiciary. Judge Carringer’s apparent behavior regarding judicial disqualifications has the effect of bringing the entire Family Law bench in Solano County into disrepute. Family Law litigants want to live in faith in the law, not fear in the law.
Carringer has been able to rule without scrutiny because of the lack of oversight in family law, the near impossibility of appeal, and the wide discretion afforded to Family Law Jurists.
It’s time to bring that to and end and demand judicial accountability.