Judge Valeriano Saucedo is one of Tulare County’s longest-serving family law judges. Saucedo became Tulare County’s first Hispanic judge when he was appointed to the bench in 2001. His wife Teresa concurrently served as Tulare County Counsel during her husband’s reign “of power”.
Judge Saucedo’s infamous rise to office as a California judge ended (for all intents and purposes) Monday, April 27, 2015, in San Diego at the Fourth District Court of Appeal before the public. If found guilty by the commission, Saucedo could face penalties ranging from public or private admonishment to removal from the bench.
Clear and Convincing Evidence for Removal
Saucedo sat floridly before California’s CJP tribunal as Examiner Harrigan weaved the elements of Saucedo’s many revealed improprieties as a sitting judge of Tulare County Superior Court.
At every step, Harrigan connected the embarrassing details of phone messages, money transactions, legal advice/intervention, and falsified court records, which jigsawed together forming a model of Saucedo’s center-driven lust of judicial “power” and notoriety, which he used to get whatever he wanted; in this case his court clerk’s attention.
The comparison of Saucedo to two other recent California judges in the news for having sex with their clerks was made by Miller, Saucedo’s own attorney. Perhaps intended to demonstrate Saucedo could have behaved worse, it had instead the effect of shaming the judge further. We may never know what really happened between Saucedo and his clerk, Pricilla Tovar; however, both deny any actual physical intercourse.
That Saucedo used his money and office as a California judge to pursue Tovar, Miller failed to impeach. Indeed the tribunal seemed more interested in seeking clarification on improprieties they apparently felt both attorneys hadn’t developed enough!
The Saucedo Scandal escalated rapidly in 2013 in a scant few months, culminating in its middle with Saucedo’s “call for help” to Tovar threatening suicide if she would not remain quiet about their affair. When Tovar agreed to keep quiet, Saucedo recovered quickly, readily resuming his public office as “Your Honor” before bar and bench. Foregoing suicide, he looked into becoming an appellate court judge, instead. Not surprisingly, it was not long before he arrived at his inevitable decision to just crack on as if nothing had happened. He was, after all, “a very powerful man” as he repeatedly told Tovar and others in vicinity. Sadly, Judge Saucedo’s pugnacious judicial behavior is typical of many family court judges across the United States, who enjoy a system designed by bar and bench to pad judicial corruption away from legal consequences.
One of the most interesting aspects of the closing arguments happened when Miller attempted to again blame Tovar for the Judge’s misconduct. Harrigan would have none of it, stating in response that Saucedo’s camp was essentially “revictimizing Tovar.” Harrigan argued that California judges should be expected to behave better, whether or not another party purposefully sought to take advantage of them. Examiner Harrigan asserted that Saucedo’s efforts to blame Tovar for what happened only served to further demonstrate his avoidance of what was expected of him as a California judge; that he was unfit for the bench.
Discussion ensued regarding the various state and federal felonies Saucedo likely committed during his affair with Tovar. This was followed by discussion of the actual number of Canons of Judicial Ethics Saucedo likely violated contemporaneously. The tribunal requested Harrigan clarify several legal issues via post hearing brief, which the Examiner assured he would file as soon as possible.
Early in closing, Examiner Harrigan compared Saucedo’s defense to a painting by René Magritte, “The Blank Check”, stating much of Saucedo’s testimony fit other elements at trial to form a picture more constructed to deceive than to promote a true and accurate picture of his actions during his affair with Tovar; a picture Harrigan stated “jars the senses” as a display of Judge Saucedo’s “single-minded purpose of seduction” and “quid pro quo of intimacy.”
Other Victims of Judicial Corruption in Tulare County, California
Bill Fabricius, a long-time resident of Tulare County, is claiming he was targeted by Tulare County Counsel and Judge Saucedo. This happened scant days before Saucedo’s threatened suicide call to Tovar on November 3, 2013.
Fabricus claims that, after he discovered falsified court records and manipulation of his family court case, Tulare County Counsel suddenly cobbled together a falsified “warrant” which grossly violated state law and Due Process, which Saucedo signed overnight, but which was never valid.
The picture painted by Examiner Harrigan generally supports Fabricius claims of falsified court records as a “problem the public doesn’t stop to think about”, says Fabricius, taking a pause to consider how to phrase his next statement. “No one wants to believe that court records can be falsified. No one wants to believe that judges themselves would falsify records. To actually learn of such a thing would call into question the very integrity of the court system. But the reality is that it happens all of the time, particularly in California, and certainly in Tulare County Superior Court. The trial of Judge Saucedo revealed that.”
As for the Commission’s possible removal of Saucedo from the bench, the agency long ago lost its effectiveness to protect the public from judicial corruption. With the CJP’s history of failing to protect Californians, taken alongside its own state interests, the likelihood that Judge Saucedo will continue in public office despite his behavior remains entirely probable.
Until real accountability ensues, Saucedo remains on the bench, “a very powerful man.”
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OR BELIEFS OF THE VALLEY VOICE OR ITS STAFF