But this week’s testimony against the Los Angeles Superior Court jurist confirms he did just that.
Ross is under fire by California’s Commission on Judicial Performance for a host of potential ethics issues, including trying to market a courtroom simulation television program in which he would star.
Tuesday’s hearing included the viewing of a tape of the reality series pilot called “Mobile Court” where Ross was to decide whether a contestant had been unfairly disqualified from a “Miss Wet on the Net” contest.
Ross is heard on the videotape as saying, “This may be a gentleman’s club but you’re in my court now.”
The contest included a wet T-shirt competition and a “wet spelling bee” in which contestants were required to spell “titillate.”
Ross ruled the contestant deserved to be “Miss Wet” and awarded her $1,000.
The jurist on Tuesday admitted that he had some concerns after he saw the tape and later said, “This isn’t necessarily what I had in mind.”
The proposed “Mobile Court” concept was to have a judge go to the scenes of various neighborhood disputes and hold “court” on the spot, hearing two or three cases per 30-minute program and rendering decisions.
The producers who attempted to sell the series in syndication in 2002 said they identified him as an actual Los Angeles Superior Court judge in order to enhance the program’s credibility.
But the judicial commission said Ross’ participation violated several ethical rules, including a requirement that judges uphold the dignity of their offices, the ban on using the office to advance private interests, and the prohibition against participation in private arbitrations and mediations.
Ross admitted that by awarding money that was actually to be paid to the participants, he violated the rule against judicial participation in private dispute resolution, although he said he didn’t realize it at the time.
Ross said he could have made quite a bit of cash — $7,500 per episode for the first year, $10,000 per episode for the second, and up to $50,000 per year in bonuses, or a maximum of $555,000 for two 26-episode seasons — if efforts to syndicate the program succeeded.
Testimony continues in the case through today and includes other charges against Ross, including claims he violated a ban on commenting on pending cases during four of his appearances on KCET TV’s “Life and Times Tonight” program and that he allegedly improperly communicated with criminal defendants or became “embroiled” in their cases.