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Judges and Judiciary

May 29, 2024

Humboldt County judge agrees to leave the bench early over misconduct

Superior Court Judge Gregory J. Kreis lost his bid for reelection in the March 5 primary. His lawyer suggested the case was an attempt to interfere with the judge's re-election.

A Humboldt County judge agreed to resign from office and to never seek to sit on a California court again for carrying on relationships outside of court with attorneys who appeared before him, one of the most serious being a lake party he attended where he threw a deputy public defender off a boat while calling him "Jewboy" and being photographed wearing a woman's bikini top.

Superior Court Judge Gregory J. Kreis lost his bid for reelection in the March 5 primary but, under a stipulation with the Commission on Judicial Performance, he agreed to leave the bench on Monday.

"In at least 44 cases over which he presided, Judge Kreis failed to disclose his relationships with seven attorneys; his familiarity with individuals involved in matters before him; or the extent of his relationships with the individuals," the CJP decision read.

The commission's notice of formal proceeding also claimed he improperly gave legal advice, made racist and inappropriate comments on the bench, used cocaine, drank frequently when off work, and in one alleged incident, groped a husband and wife while intoxicated. He paraded around in a bikini top at a 2019 party in an apparent attempt to mock a lawyer, and the photo ended up in a local newspaper. And there was a monetary settlement paid to the lawyer he called "Jewboy."

James A. Murphy, founding shareholder at Murphy, Pearson Bradley & Feeney PC in San Francisco, represented Kreis.

"There were a number of allegations that were disputed that are not part of this stipulation," Murphy said. "Many of them have to do with his failure to disclose relationships with attorneys who appeared before him. Relationships with people in the district attorney's office, social relationships and outside of the profession that the commission felt he had an obligation to disclose."

The commission said that it took particularly seriously the judge's sexual misconduct with a female acquaintance. The disciplinary decision also noted that he "treated attorneys and litigants poorly, including making inappropriate, sarcastic, and gratuitous comments to them."

Kreis' misconduct was exacerbated by a previous disciplinary action. In 2018, the commission issued an advisory letter to Kreis finding that he made intemperate and inappropriate remarks about a criminal defendant.

Murphy suggested the commission was party to election interference, pointing to the timing of the allegations brought against Kreis. "It was interesting how these accusations surfaced right in the middle of a re-election campaign and ballot distribution week," he said.

"He was the presiding judge until he resigned. He has a lot of friends on the bench. He has a lot of friends in the legal community. There was no way he was going to lose that election until the Commission filed the formal proceedings a month before the election," Murphy added.

Murphy said Kreis will re-enter private practice in the Eureka area.


Douglas Saunders Sr.

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