Strip Club Judge Found to Have Violated Ethics Rules

Rhett Pardon
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, who held court in a strip club for a reality TV program’s pilot, has been found to have violated ethics rules, a Commission on Judicial Performance panel concluded this week.

The Ross controversy stems from a pilot tape of “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 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.

Ross might have been "embarrassed by the undignified nature of the program" but "enticed" by the show's potential, state judicial officials wrote in a 77-page report.

The jurist admitted in testimony last year 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 Ross as an actual Los Angeles Superior Court judge in order to enhance the program’s credibility.

In testimony, 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.

In the decision released this week, Ross was found to have committed willful or prejudicial misconduct for “Mobile Court.” The panel said Ross violated judicial canons in five counts against him and acted improperly in another charge filed by the Commission on Judicial Performance.

While he signed "arbitrator's award" documents, "for reasons that are not clear, Judge Ross has been unwilling to admit that he knew he was acting as an arbitrator when the pilots were filmed," the report said.

After a 30-day briefing period, Ross will have the opportunity to address the panel. The panel can impose punishments ranging from private censure to removal from the bench.