Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Gregory J. Kreis at his re-election campaign launch. | Photo by Andrew Goff.



Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Gregory Kreis, who is facing 19 counts of alleged misconduct as he seeks re-election to the bench, says he did nothing wrong. 

Earlier today, Kreis’s attorney, James Murphy, submitted an 18-page reply to the California Commission on Judicial Performance, an independent state agency that has launched an investigation into the charges against Kreis, which include antisemitic remarks, drug and alcohol use, inappropriate sexual behavior, prejudicial administration of justice and making false or misleading declarations in court proceedings.

Kreis denies all of those accusations and describes a number of them as false charges leveled by people with grudges, including his ex-wife and her friends and an angry former colleague who he refused to promote while he was serving as Public Defender.

The response from Kreis’s attorney addresses each of the 19 allegations in turn, starting with the events at an attorney-filled Memorial Day celebration on Shasta Lake in 2019. The related allegations mirror claims in a 2020 lawsuit brought by former Deputy Public Defender Rory Kalin, who accused Kreis of belittling him, calling him “Jew boy” and throwing him headlong into the lake, among other things. 

That case – and a related one against the county and employees of the Public Defender’s Office – has since been settled. In response to the current investigation, Kreis acknowledges consuming alcohol but denies being intoxicated, denies vaping cannabis and denies ridiculing Kalin or using the term “Jew boy.”

He also denies giving a lap dance to the wife of friend and current Humboldt County Public Defender Luke Brownfield, though he says he may have sat on her lap as they’ve been good friends for 20 years. 

Kreis admits to pushing Kalin into Shasta Lake but says there’s a tradition of such behavior, and he says Kalin initially laughed about it. Kreis’s reply says he later apologized to Kalin after finding out that Kalin was upset that his cell phone had been in his pocket when he went underwater.

As for the rest, Kreis’s response says, “It is believed that Mr. Kalin made up these allegations after he was fired from the public defender’s office in order to enhance his lawsuits against Humboldt County and Judge Kreis.” 

Elsewhere, Kreis suggests that Kalin himself was inebriated: “Perhaps this is an imagined statement since the witnesses all confirm that Mr. Kalin was into the heavy use of cannabis products during the event, and over-using prescribed medications.”

Later, Kreis admits to having a romantic relationship with a family law facilitator, beginning in July or August of 2021, but he denies allegations that the relationship began earlier and that he tried to cover it up by maneuvering to get a courtroom clerk fired for spreading false rumors about the affair.

Kreis, in his response, says the rumors were indeed false at the time they were spread, because the relationship hadn’t yet begun, and that those false allegations created a “hostile work environment.” And he says the courtroom clerk was justifiably fired for “many of her past actions.”

As for the allegation that Kreis slapped a woman’s butt after she specifically told him not to, Kreis describes the incident as a misunderstanding. Here’s that portion of his reply:

On November 9, 2018, Judge Kreis and his now ex-wife, while walking past the home of David and Meghan Nims, stopped to say hello. David and Meaghan Nims, along with Katelyn Woods and Ryan Woods, were present, had obviously been drinking and were drinking when the Kreises arrived. The Judge recalls staying at Mr. Nims’ house for maybe 5-10 minutes.

Upon leaving, David Nims gave Judge Kreis a “man hug” and lightly slapped his bottom, similar to a football player giving another player a “good game” tap, and said goodbye. Judge Kreis returned the slap. That then became a joke and Ryan Woods did the same as well as Meghan Nims. When it became Katelyn Woods’ turn, she had been laughing but said something like, “Not me” but was laughing so hard Judge Kreis thought she was joking. He then gave her a hug and the similar light slap.

When he turned to leave, the Judge saw that Ms. Woods’ face was now somewhat serious. He immediately apologized and told her that he thought she was kidding. Upon arrival at home, Judge Kreis texted the Nimes [sic] and told them that he was sorry for possibly offending Ms. Woods. The response was that Katelyn Woods was overreacting and that the Kreises should not worry about it. Obviously, Judge Kreis misread the situation and apologized for that.

Kreis also denies an allegation that, at another social gathering, he went into the bedroom of a woman while she was sleeping, pulled down his pants and held his penis near her face as he tried to wake her up. His response says this allegation is “offensive, false and therefore denied.”

Many of the other charges pertain to cases presided over by Judge Kreis, with allegations that he failed to make necessary disclosures about personal and professional relationships and failed to recuse himself when he should have. Kreis says he followed the law and that some allegedly close personal friends are really just professional acquaintances.

Kreis also stands accused of being impatient and undignified, losing his temper in the courtroom during child custody cases and other contentious hearings. His response says he was simply firm when necessary and never acted improperly.

“Judges need to be stern with parties who intentionally refuse to follow proper court orders,” the document reads. “When it is impossible to reason with a party, for whatever reason, direct, stern language is appropriate.”

As noted above, Kreis chalks up some of the allegations to baseless claims from his ex-wife or her friends. This includes the assertion that he drank alcohol while driving friends on a tour of historic homes in Eureka. Kreis says he believes he in fact made himself an iced tea and carried a thermos of coffee into the car.

Kreis also denies frequently using cocaine before being appointed to a judgeship in 2017. He also denies asking a former colleague to buy cocaine for him and denies pressuring another colleague to use some. These allegations, he says, were made by a former deputy public defender who was so mad about not being promoted by Kreis that she ended their friendship and “has been his antagonist ever since.”

You can read the full response document via the link below.

Now that Kreis has responded to the allegations against him, the Commission on Judicial Performance will schedule a hearing at which both parties can introduce evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses.

Any charges that aren’t proven during the hearing will be dismissed, but if the commission decides that the charges have been proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” it can publicly admonish Kreis, privately discipline him or even remove him from the bench. 

Meanwhile, Kreis is facing an election challenge from two contenders – Conflict Counsel contract attorney April Van Dyke and Deputy District Attorney Jessica Watson, who is running as a write-in candidate. Election Day is March 5.


DOCUMENT: Respondent’s Verified Answer to Notice of Formal Proceedings