Conrad Rushing. Credit: Jason Doiy/ ALM

Conrad Rushing, the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal in San Jose, California, for the past 14 years, resigned this week while facing allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News.

The Mercury News on Wednesday reported that a confidential five-page report commissioned by the state Judicial Council found that Rushing engaged in sexual conduct at work, including looking at nude photos of women while in his chambers, giving men on his staff preferred assignments, and regularly commenting on the appearance of women on his staff.

The report also found that Rushing made derogatory remarks about Portuguese-Americans and other groups based on race, national origin or ethnicity, according to the paper.

Rushing was appointed to the court in 2002 by Gov. Gray Davis and elevated to presiding judge in January of the next year. Rushing was originally appointed to the trial court bench in 1978 by Jerry Brown during his first stint as governor. Prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeal, Rushing served for 24 years in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Rushing joined the Court of Appeal as the first Democratic appointee and shook up what was then a conservative bench. Rushing had a defense-friendly reputation in criminal appeals in his early days, dissenting 17 times in his first year-and-a-half on the appellate bench. He carried a reputation for arrogance.

“There may be a fine line between competence and arrogance,” Rushing told The Recorder in a 2003 judicial profile. “If there is a hard case at the trial court … you have to be pretty confident about your abilities to follow the case.”

A spokesman for the Judicial Council declined immediate comment.

The Mercury News reported that after Sacramento law firm Ellis Buehler Makus produced the report for the Judicial Council, the Commission for Judicial Performance, the state’s judicial watchdog, launched its own investigation, which reached similar conclusions.

Rushing has no record of public discipline by the Commission on Judicial Performance. A judicial profile of Rushing in the April 28, 1998, edition of The Recorder, however, noted the judge had been the subject of “a recent complaint of gender bias by a female litigator.” The story didn’t elaborate further and there was no mention of the incident in more recent profiles.   

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