Robyn Renne Devereaux, a onetime Latham & Watkins paralegal, met Melissa Jo Rodriguez, a retired California Highway Patrol dispatcher, on ObesityHelp.com in 2005. The two Orange County women quickly bonded, sharing secrets and fun during nine months. But by early 2006, their friendship had collapsed into a nearly impossible-to-decipher war. Now, each claims in court filings the other is a dangerous cyber-stalker.
Devereaux calls Rodriguez a "self-serving bitch . . . a bisexual . . . a drama queen . . . pathological liar and hypocrite [who is] suffering from paranoid delusions [and is] crazed as hell and hell-bent on revenge."
For her part, Rodriguez--the mother of three--has been less inflammatory, but Devereaux insists she's being wrongly pegged as "a blackmailer, extortionist, pimp, panderer and pornographer."
Devereaux also claims the ex-CHP civilian employee has threatened her with a gun and that Rodriguez likes to give other women lap dances.
Rodriguez claims Devereaux is a "character assassin" who has posted pictures of guns in Internet chat rooms the two visit and has also left "comments on killing stupid people."
According to Devereaux, "The last time Melissa Jo Rodriguez had an original idea she left it in the toilet bowl."
According to Rodriguez, Devereaux is a snitch who told Rodriguez's mother about her secret tummy tuck and breast-implant surgeries. Devereaux also reportedly labeled Rodriguez's autistic son "a retard."
If these women needed anything, it was guidance from a calm, impartial person both could respect. Unfortunately, fate (or just awful luck?) placed them in front of John M. Watson.
You may have heard of Watson. He's an arrogant, quick-tempered ex-Los Angeles prosecutor and, since 1989, an OC Superior Court judge who got caught a few years back repeatedly ordering his taxpayer-paid court staff to handle chores for his personal apartment-rental business. The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished him in 2006.
A year later, Devereaux and Rodriguez arrived in Watson's court armed with reams of nasty e-mail exchanges and angry Web posts. Each wanted restraining orders against the other. It was a rapid, bizarre hearing where both women were stifled. Without asking any pertinent legal questions or spending a single second reviewing Rodriguez's evidence, Watson granted Devereaux's three-year restraining-order request.
Rodriguez sounded dumbfounded. She tried to tell Watson her side of the story--that Devereaux has a lengthy criminal record, and she has been formally declared a vexatious litigator. Watson also ignored the fact that Rodriguez had detailed her opponent's 22 aliases listed in court files and that Devereaux had preposterously responded by telling the court in writing that Rodriguez has an identical number including "Crack Ho Melissa" and "Trailer Trash Melissa."
But Watson wasn't interested. He was too busy massaging his ego. At one point, he even told a polite and respectful Rodriguez to shut up.
"Out in the hallway, I'm a nobody," he said. "In here, I've got to run this little room. . . . You are now before me, and I have jurisdiction over you. "
"You're going to give her [a restraining order] against me?" Rodriguez asked. "I haven't done anything around her."
Watson fired back, "I've done all I'm going to do whether you stand in front of me for the next two weeks. I'm still going to say, 'Granted' [for Devereaux], 'denied' [for you]."
In July, California Court of Appeal justices Kathleen O'Leary, Eileen C. Moore and Raymond J. Ikola brought much needed sanity back to the case. They stated they were baffled by Watson's conduct, declared they "have no confidence" in his ruling, reversed it, ordered a new hearing, and then lectured the 19-year judge on Judge Duties 101.
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"[Watson] admitted he had not reviewed the evidence [and] limited the testimony of the parties (often interrupting them)," the Santa Ana-based justices wrote in a formal opinion. "We appreciate the workload faced by our trial court colleagues and the need to expedite matters whenever possible. But [Watson's] rapid disposition of this case denied the litigants due process."
(Wednesdays at OCWeekly.com, discover the depths of human depravity in Orange County, California.)
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-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly