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Former judge is summarily disbarred for fixing tickets

Former Santa Clara County Superior Court judge WILLIAM RICHARD DANSER [#84789], convicted in 2004 of fixing tickets and handing out slap-on-the-wrist drunken driving sentences, was summarily disbarred last month. His conviction for conspiracy to obstruct justice, a felony involving moral turpitude, qualified him for summary disbarment.

Following a jury trial, the ex-judge also was convicted of eight misdemeanors, including conflict of interest, obstruction by a judicial officer and attempted obstruction.

After the State Bar Court recommended summary disbarment in February, Danser appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that his crime was not inherently immoral and had “no bearing on (his) ability or fitness to practice law.” The justices rejected his request for a hearing and stripped him of his law license Aug. 15.

Danser, 53, of Saratoga, resigned from the bench three months after his conviction and was placed on interim suspension by the bar a short time later.

He and a friend, former Los Gatos police Detective Randy Bishop, were accused of fixing tickets for San Jose Sharks hockey and San Jose Earthquakes soccer players and team officials and their wives and girlfriends. Recipients of the judge’s favors included Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and team president Greg Jamison and Earthquakes forward Dwayne De Rosario.

Three of Danser’s golfing buddies also had tickets dismissed, as well as his personal trainer, a teacher for his children and members of the Los Gatos Little League, for which the judge served as president. Danser also was accused to trying to order the dismissal of two parking tickets his son received on the family car.

In one case, prosecutors showed that Danser dismissed tickets for three men who played in his golf foursome at a Los Gatos police fund-raising tournament organized by Bishop.

Bishop moonlighted as a security official for the Sharks and the Earthquakes. Prosecutors said he steered most of the motorists who received favors to Danser, although Danser testified that parents at Little League games sometimes complained to him about tickets they received.

Over a three-year stretch, Danser, who was appointed to the bench in 1995 by Gov. Pete Wilson, dismissed 20 traffic tickets and handed out two light drunk driving sentences.

He testified at his trial that he saw nothing wrong with reviewing friends’ complaints and maintained he did nothing that other judges don’t do. He said he always asked Bishop to determine whether the police had any objections to tickets being dismissed “in the interest of justice.” He never doubted the detective, he told the jury, until officers from the California Highway Patrol and San Jose police testified that Bishop never conferred with them about dismissing tickets.

The tickets were often dismissed in Danser’s chambers, without traffic violators or their attorneys appearing in court.

In describing the judge’s activities, prosecutor David Pandori referred to his “perverted system of justice.” Pandori said Danser’s courthouse had two doors: “One for everybody and another door for the people who know Judge Danser.”

The judge did not fix tickets for financial gain, prosecutors said, but rather because he wanted to hobnob with celebrity athletes and show he could pull strings. Ken Robinson, Danser’s defense attorney, said the judge had led an exemplary life but made one “serious mistake.”

“There is a reason Bill Danser did what he did,” Robinson said at the sentencing hearing. “Was it greed? No. He wanted to be a big man. But his big man is not a big man any longer. He can’t go out. He’s embarrassed his family.”

Although he faced up to three years in prison, Danser, who is in poor health, was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest, three years of probation and 400 hours of community service and he was ordered to pay $2,700 in fines and $200 in restitution.

Bishop, who did not testify at Danser’s trial, pleaded no contest to felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to home detention.

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