With the assistance of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, the California Attorney General's office is investigating allegations that a married Superior Court judge may have enjoyed a quid pro quo sexual affair that landed a woman a job in the District Attorney's office, OC Weekly has learned.
Judge Scott Steiner, the target of the investigation, has been reassigned away from weighty duties in the county's central courthouse in Santa Ana to minor duties in Fullerton court, according to multiple, well-placed sources.
Tony Rackauckas' Orange County District Attorney's office, where Steiner worked before becoming a judge, recused itself after learning of the allegations and notified the AG's office.
The probe is being handled by sheriff's deputies and, if charges are filed, they'll be prosecuted by the AG's office, according to AG spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill, who acknowledged that OC authorities gave her office "a heads up" about the case.
In recent days before his transfer, prosecutors refused to appear before Steiner.
Steiner, a part-time law professor at Chapman University's law school, has not been answering phone calls or email, but has hired acclaimed, high-price criminal defense lawyer Paul S. Meyer of Costa Mesa.
Meyer declined an interview and a Chapman spokeswoman refused to discuss Steiner's status, but other well-placed legal sources say that the allegations may include courthouse sex.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the DA's office and a personal Steiner ally, told the Weekly that prosecutors became aware of a related Chapman University investigation on Feb. 26.
"We immediately turned the matter over to the AG's office," said Schroeder.
As a prosecutor, Steiner performed exceptional work in controversial hate crime cases and has been a longtime conservative, Republican Party activist. He rose to the bench with the enthusiastic backing of Rackauckas. His father, Bill, was a county supervisor.
Last year, a state judicial ethics panel rebuked OC Judge Salvador Sarmiento for fixing tickets for his wife and several years ago another judge, the insufferable John M. Watson, was caught using his court staff to run an apartment leasing business.