Commission on Judicial Performance’s findings reveal Mallery’s nightmare tenure on the court

On Dec. 19, the California Commission on Judicial Performance released a 189-page Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law of the Special Masters investigation into 21 allegations against Lassen County Superior Court Judge Tony Mallery.

The commission will hold a public proceeding during a meeting in San Francisco on March 20 or March 21, but the date and time of the Mallery matter has not been set yet. Details will announced on the commission’s website.

The report reveals many of the obstacles Mallery faced after his election as a Lassen County Superior Court Judge.

A disturbing local story
One portion of the report covers “Mitigating and Aggravating Factors,” a chilling recounting of Mallery’s first encounters with court staff following his election in 2012.

Mallery reportedly was not the preferred candidate of court staff and there was “hand wringing and teeth gnashing” when was elected.

At their first meeting, Judge Michele Verderosa allegedly told Mallery he would not be welcome in the back of the courthouse until after Christmas, so he couldn’t have “interactions with clerks or anybody else.”

Mallery tried to “shadow” Verderosa and watch her handle cases, “but she was unwelcoming,” forcing Mallery to seek guidance from judges in other counties.

Then came the controversy of Mallery’s swearing in on Jan. 7, 2013. Mallery had invited family, friends and supporters to the event and he expected to be sworn in by Verderosa, but she refused and told him a document he had signed at the county clerk’s office was the swearing in event. The event was set for 4 p.m. and the courtroom was overflowing with about 200 observers. Finally, Verderosa arrived 45 minutes late.

According to the commission’s report. “It cannot be understated how significant this event was. This evidence shows Judge Verderosa had no respect for Judge Mallery and that (she) was willing to humiliate him at the precipice outset of his judicial career. Over time, she continued to show disdain for Judge Mallery and infected much of the staff with the same disdain.”

Mallery contacted the commission to report the “harassing environment at the courthouse” in June 2013, but he was advised to not file a complaint “because it would only make matters worse.” Instead he was advised to take notes “because later it’s likely (he) would be responding to an investigation by the CJP.”

Court staff reported they allegedly were told “not to assist Judge Mallery as he transitioned onto the bench.”

Mallery sought mediation with Verderosa, but instead she referred him to Plumas County Judge Ira Kaufman who allegedly shared Mallery’s confidential issues with Verderosa.

The relationship between the two Lassen County Superior Court judges worsened and Mallery contacted JCC seeking mediation, but Verderosa was unwilling.

Mallery planned to attend a Cow Counties Institute program for judges in May 2014. Verderosa had previously approved Mallery’s attendance, but on the day he planned to travel to attend Verdeosa held a “mandatory, all-staff meeting.”  The majority of the 15-minute meeting consisted of criticism of Mallery before the courthouse staff, and Verderosa encouraged staff to “disregard Judge Mallery’s directives to them if they ‘didn’t feel right’ about them. Mallery requested a one-on-one meeting with Verderosa, but she refused.

Mallery described that day as his “second loneliest day in my life being a judge.” It created “this huge separation between [him] and the rest of the court staff” and “put [him] on an island.” He was deflated, in shock, and numb in his body. He explained, “[s]o you couldn’t be more alienated and feeling like — you didn’t feel like a judge. When your own colleague won’t give you the respect of at least the title of being a judge. But it made me feel – honestly, it didn’t make me feel human.” When he started driving to the Cow Counties seminar, he had to pull over because he was so rattled.

Court staffer Chris Vose was at the meeting and described Judge Mallery’s appearance as “shellshocked,” saying “[h]e just sat there emotionless. No expression on his face. It was — yeah, shellshocked.” Vose testified, “presiding Judge Verderosa and the court executive, Andi Ashby, called a staff meeting of all the staff into a teeny little room, with Judge Mallery there and basically just admonished him for like 15 minutes, you know, I know you don’t like me, I don’t like you, this and that. I mean it was horrific to watch.” Vose was also in shock. After that meeting, Vose observed a change in Judge Mallery’s demeanor from someone who was “normally cheerful” to one who became “very somber.”

Verderosa also blocked Mallery’s multiple attempts to attend trainings.

According to the report, “By June 2015, Judge Verderosa and CEO Ashby had grown so vindictive that they — or someone at their direction — canceled Judge Mallery’s key fob which gave him access to the court. Judge Mallery received access again only after Judge Verderosa left and he became presiding judge in June 2017. The lack of access during that two-year period affected Judge Mallery’s physical safety, especially when he had to be at court after hours.”

According to the report, the constant monitoring by Verderosa, Judge Mark Nareau and court staff took a toll on Mallery.

“The commission and its staff have a job to do; indeed, a mandate,” the report notes. “Nonetheless, the constant investigations affected LSC operations and beat Judge Mallery down. This case commenced with Judge Mallery’s fifth preliminary investigation, with previous investigations taking place in 2014, 2015 and two in 2018.”

For example, the report notes that between August 2020 and July 2022, Nareau was interviewed at least 25 times.

According to the report, “The commission’s repeated investigations of, and numerous accusations against, Judge Mallery significantly affected him and the work environment in the court. As he explained in April 2022, ‘My feeling of being monitored, spied on, being looked upon all the time. It felt like that every move that I made was one that if I stepped in the wrong direction ever so slightly, it was going — I was going to have to be addressing that issue with somebody somewhere. Potentially being used against me in an effort to have me removed from the bench.'”

Mallery’s health reportedly declined, and he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder beginning in 2015.

According to the report, “All those symptoms got much worse on March 11, 2022, when Judge Nareau informed Judge Mallery he could not work from or be present at the courthouse or communicate with staff. Judge Mallery summarized Judge Nareau’s March 11 letter as, ‘in essence, stat[ing] that I’m advised not to be in the courthouse, that there was a pending investigation, and that I’m not to speak to any judges or any staff. And if I wish to come to the courthouse, I must seek his prior approval. And that any work that I would be doing would be done remotely.’ This was the worst day in Judge Mallery’s judicial career, and Judge Mallery crashed. The banishment made Judge Mallery feel ‘like a mountain fell on top of him,’ and his symptoms grew worse. Judge Mallery has not returned to the court since.”

Mallery’s lack of honesty and integrity in his testimony
The master’s also took exception to some of Mallery’s testimony.

According to the report, “Honesty is a minimum qualification expected of every judge. Whether Judge Mallery ‘cooperated fully and honestly’ in these proceedings ‘may be relevant in considering the appropriate discipline to be ordered.’ The commission has stated that ‘foremost in its consideration of factors relevant to discipline is honesty and integrity.’ In Johnson, the commission stated: ‘If the essential quality of veracity is lacking, other positive qualities of the person cannot redeem or compensate for the missing fundamental.’ ‘A judge who does not honor the oath to tell the truth cannot be entrusted with judging the credibility of others.’

“We find that Judge Mallery has not been entirely truthful during these proceedings … “