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A California judge is under investigation for alleged antisemitism and ethical violations

SAN FRANCISCO — A Northern California judge is under investigation by a state agency for allegedly making antisemitic remarks when addressing a deputy public defender, failing to recuse himself from cases involving attorneys and other people he socialized with, sexually harassing women, and other ethical violations.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Gregory Kreis was notified last week he is charged with 19 ethical violations going back to 2015.

California’s Commission on Judicial Performance, which investigates complaints against members of the judicial branch, said in its notice of formal proceedings that Kreis is charged with “willful misconduct in office, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, and improper action.”

Kreis, who was appointed to the bench in 2017 by former Governor Jerry Brown, has until Feb. 22 to respond to the commission. He was previously a Humboldt County public defender.

Kreis said in a statement posted on social media last week that the allegations against him were “outright lies” and noted they come as he is seeking reelection. He is running in the March 5 primary for another 6-year term.

His lawyer, James A. Murphy, said Friday the investigation stems from a lawsuit filed by Rory Kalin, a former Humboldt County deputy public defender, who alleged Kreis assaulted him by shoving him off a boat during a 2019 camping trip and repeatedly called him “Jewboy.”

That lawsuit has since been settled.

“There is no factual support for that allegation whatsoever,” Murphy said.

It is among the allegations outlined by the Commission on Judicial Performance that are now under investigation. The commission also details allegations from the same boat trip that Kreis suggested Kalin be fired, mocked his appearance and pantomimed giving a lap dance to the wife of another public defender while intoxicated.

The commission noted Kreis allegedly lied to the court’s presiding judge who was investigating rumors Kreis was having an affair with a court employee. Another count alleges he sexually harassed a female acquaintance during a social gathering and on a separate occasion, sneaked into a friend’s bedroom, exposed his genitals, and tried to wake her during a party at the woman’s home.

Most of the commission’s charges stem from Kreis’s alleged failure to recuse himself from cases involving attorneys he had worked with or socialized with or people who were connected to his wife or he knew from social circles.

Murphy said he will show Kreis made appropriate disclosures to “the parties and/or counsel to allow them to make the decision of whether they would seek his disqualification or not,” Murphy said.

“I can tell you that we had witnesses who will contradict the allegations the Commission on Judicial Performance set forth in the notice of formal proceedings,” he added.

The judge is also accused of using cocaine between 2013 and 2017, before becoming a judge, driving while holding an open alcoholic drink, making inappropriate comments on the bench, and improperly giving legal advice.

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