May 11, 2007 — Businesswoman and sometime-community activist Maria Ferreras filed a motion Friday in V.I. Superior Court asking that one of the members of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities recuse himself from hearing complaints filed against V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall.
Ferreras, who organized a public demonstration in April calling for Kendall to step down, signed an affidavit describing a phone call attorney Andrew Capdeville made to her home the day before the public protest, which is her basis for the motion.
"My professional advisors suggested filing the motion, after I told them of the conversation," Ferreras said Friday. She said when Capdeville called her, she, at first, didn't realize that he was a sitting member on the commission. "We argued back and forth, and about halfway through [our conversation], I realized he was one of the names I had seen on the commission list.
"He began to tell me that Kendall 'is a good guy, and very smart.' He said there are two sides to every story, and that Kendall had done nothing illegal," Ferreras said. "I peppered him with questions, and I brought up the Williams case, which I said showed flawed judicial reasoning"
(See "Judge Kendall Gives Rapist Minimum Sentence, Says Victim was Lying").
Ferreras said Capdeville asked her if there was any way he could facilitate or mediate a discussion between herself and Kendall. "I told him, yes. First, he would have to issue a public apology to all the victim advocates he trapped in his courtroom, insulting them. The day of the Williams sentencing, he called them the 'real perpetrators' of the crime. I told Andy that if I had been in the courtroom that day, I would have been in contempt of court, because I would have spoken up."
Ferreras said, "I told him that if he was asking me to call off the demonstration the next day, the answer is no. He said he wasn't asking that. He said the assistant attorneys general were at fault for not asking for bail in some cases, and I disagreed. You can't convince me that when you bring a person who has committed heinous crimes before a judge, he shouldn't set a heavy bail."
Ferreras said, "I've known Andy for years, and I respect him. It's mutual — we agreed to disagree."
Last week a formal 53-page complaint against Kendall's conduct on the bench was sent to the V.I. Commission on Judicial Disabilities by a Judicial Watch, judicial watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. It is the culmination of a public outcry over several of Kendall's decisions.
The complaint states: "On behalf of concerned residents of the Virgin Islands, we are requesting an investigation into the conduct of Judge Leon Kendall of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.
"By numerous accounts, Judge Kendall has engaged in a disturbing pattern of conduct that has undermined public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice. On at least eight occasions, Judge Kendall reportedly has allowed persons arrested for violent crimes to be released back into society with little or no bail. This pattern of conduct by Judge Kendall, detailed below, has had tragic results and warrants investigation."
The complaint reached the commission last week.
The five-member commission has four sitting members. Sen. Ronald Russell is chairman. Comprising the other seats are Andrew Capdeville, Robert O'Connor and local labor leader Luis "Tito" Morales. One seat is vacant.
Russell indicated last week that the commission would be meeting soon (See "Complaint Against Judge Kendall Reaches Territorial Commission").
Russell said Friday that the commission "will function because it has four members." Without specifically referring to Ferreras' court motion, Russell said, "I don't think I can respond to that."
He cited the commission's confidentiality. He also said the commission will be meeting soon. "We are not going to publicize the date," he said, again citing confidentiality concerns. But, he emphasized, "The commission will function."
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