gavel.jpgOrange County Superior Court Judge James M. Brooks' unusual courtroom tactics have gotten him into trouble again.

A state appeals court panel overturned his ruling on an employment-discrimination case today because of his unconventional courtroom manner.

This isn't the first time that Brooks, who has been a judge in Orange County since 1987, has received such criticism.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance has denounced him for his courtroom remarks on several occasions, including an instance when he referred to the operators of a mobile-home park as "Nazis."

In another case, he called a Hispanic defendant "Pedro" instead of his real name and has also issued a warrant for an Asian defendant for "10,000 or 20,000 yen."

The Orange County Register reports that the panel cited several instances of misconduct by the judge who has served the county for 20 years.

"One time, Brooks held up a sign he prepared that read "overruled" when addressing a plaintiffs' objection. The next day, the defense attorney gave the judge a different "overruled" sign, stating, "Your honor, I wanted to help you if I may. This is a much nicer version."

Brooks replied: "Better than my homemade one."

When the plaintiffs' lawyer objected, Brooks said: "The court will await receiving a 'sustained' sign from plaintiff(s) so we can split the benefit here."

In its ruling, the appeals panel characterized the exchange as "a sideshow in the overall circus atmosphere mocking a serious proceeding."

"It is obvious that much of the judge's conduct was not malicious but rather a misguided attempt to be humorous,'' the justices wrote. "But a courtroom is not the Improv and the presider's role model is not Judge Judy."

The three-justice panel from the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered that the defendants be granted a new trial in Orange County—before a different judge.

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