MARTINEZ -- The California Commission on Judicial Performance on Tuesday publicly admonished Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Bruce Mills for judicial misconduct.

The reprimand -- essentially a slap on the wrists, but embarrassing to the jurist -- stems from his handling of his teenage son's tobacco infraction case in a nonpublic area and a pro tem judge's chambers at the Walnut Creek courtroom in 2011.

Though the disposition was one that the average parent could have received, the commission said that Mills' actions gave an appearance of impropriety.

San Francisco attorney James Murphy said that the commission made its decision based on inaccurate facts, and then outright ignored a special masters' recommendation that Mills' actions were improper but not warranting discipline.

"The decision is offensive to the whole notion of fundamental fairness," Murphy said.

Mills, 55, has served on the Contra Costa County bench since 1995. He was publicly admonished once before, in 2006, for having improper communications with a defendant and an attorney in a 1997 misdemeanor case, and for "a pattern of making comments that are discourteous, sarcastic, demeaning and belittling to those appearing before him."

He was privately admonished by the Commission of Judicial Performance in 2001 for ignoring a defendant's request for counsel and urging him to plead guilty.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.



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