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Administrative Office of the Courts v. Norman Valdez

December 27, 2010

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
NORMAN VALDEZ, JR., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Lake County Super. Ct. No. CV 406727)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margulies, J.

Administrative Office of the Courts v. Valdez CA1/1

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

On the day he learned a family law decision adverse to him had been affirmed on appeal, defendant Norman Valdez, Jr., made repeated threats to kill the superior court commissioner who had rendered the decision. Eighteen months later, the trial court issued a workplace violence injunction against Valdez requiring him to stay away from the commissioner and the courthouse where he worked. Valdez appeals from the judgment, contending there is no evidence he engaged in any threatening or violent conduct toward the commissioner after the date of the original incident, or that there is any risk of future harm requiring permanent injunctive relief against him. We affirm the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 12, 2009, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) filed a petition under Code of Civil Procedure*fn1 section 527.8 seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Valdez from (1) engaging in violence or threats of violence against Lake County Superior Court Commissioner Vincent Lechowick, and (2) coming within 50 yards of Lechowick or his residence or place of employment. A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued and the matter was set for an order to show cause (OSC) hearing. The case was specially assigned to Judge Mark Tansil of the Sonoma County Superior Court, and was heard on October 6, 2009.

A. Evidence at OSC Hearing

Over a two-year period from 2005 to 2007, Valdez was involved in a marital dissolution/child support matter assigned to Lechowick's courtroom. He appeared before Lechowick approximately 12 times. During that time Valdez filed a number of motions, all of which Valdez believed were decided adversely to him. Valdez unsuccessfully appealed two of these rulings. The second appellate ruling, issued on March 28, 2008, affirmed Lechowick's denial of Valdez's motion to reduce his child support obligations.

1. Threats Made on March 28, 2008

Valdez learned of the appellate decision when he returned home from work on March 28, 2008. Upon reading the decision that night, Valdez became distraught and told his wife, Lisa, he was going to kill Lechowick. Lisa believed Valdez had been angry with Lechowick for some time and he felt Lechowick had ruined his life. She thought at the time it was possible he would carry out his threat because he was more upset and agitated than she had ever seen him before. Lisa believed Valdez, a veteran of the Iraq war, was suffering from an exacerbation of his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She became so concerned about Lechowick she called the National Veterans Suicide Hotline to see if they could help her husband calm down.

According to the hotline operator who answered the call, Valdez came on the line and told her "someone needed to come get him because he was ready to kill a judge."*fn2 Lisa also spoke to the operator, who was located in New York State. The operator informed Lisa the hotline was not associated with the Veteran's Administration (VA), but she would contact either a Lake County mental health agency or the Lake County Sheriff's Department. The hotline operator contacted the sheriff's office and provided the telephone operator at the sheriff's office with Valdez's telephone number and address. A sheriff's department dispatcher called the Valdez home within 15 or 20 minutes.

Valdez picked up the phone. After verifying she was speaking with Valdez, and explaining she had just gotten a call from "[t]he VA" and "they are concerned about you," the dispatcher asked Valdez if "[e]verything [was] ok there." In a very calm, matter-of-fact tone of voice, Valdez responded: "Oh, I'm fine and I'm not suicidal, but I will kill the judge." When asked why he felt that way, Valdez responded as follows, again stressing the word "will": "Because he screwed me over so bad and I'm tired of it and I will kill him." Valdez then asked the dispatcher if she wanted the judge's name. When she responded affirmatively, Valdez said, "Vincent T. Lechowick," pronouncing the judge's last name in a sing-song voice. Later in the conversation, Valdez stated, "Yeah, I got my appeal back and they went with what he said, so I got screwed over again, so I will kill the son-of-a-bitch." When the dispatcher asked Valdez if he had any weapons, Valdez responded: "I'm not gonna--it's going to be slow and painful with him." When the dispatcher followed up by asking him if he was "wanting to do that today," Valdez responded negatively.

Valdez gave the telephone to Lisa, who sounded tearful and very upset. She told the dispatcher she was not sure what her husband would do. She reported he had told her he needed to be locked up "because first chance he gets he's gonna do it." She acknowledged he had a rifle in the house, but no ammunition, and stated he did not know where the firing pin was. Lisa ...


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