UPDATE: On Wednesday evening Judge Kreis posted the following statement via Instagram:
In the midst of a re-election campaign, the California Commission on Judicial Performance has launched a formal investigation into the conduct of Humboldt County Superior Court Presiding Judge Gregory J. Kreis based on 19 counts of alleged misconduct. The allegations involve drug and alcohol use, inappropriate sexual behavior, prejudicial administration of justice and making false or misleading declarations in court proceedings.
The charges span nearly a decade, involving numerous cases both before and after Kreis was appointed to a judgeship in May 2017.
Reached via email, Kreis referred us to his San Francisco-based attorney, James A. Murphy, who told the Outpost that the investigation stems from claims in a 2020 lawsuit brought by former Deputy Public Defender Rory Kalin.
However, the accusations enumerated in the commission’s Notice of Formal Proceedings extend far beyond what was alleged in that case, in which Kalin sued Kreis, the County of Humboldt and employees in the county’s Public Defender’s Office over incidents that stemmed from an alcohol-fueled Memorial Day celebration on Shasta Lake in 2019, and subsequent professional behavior. (More on that below.)
Murphy said in an email, “Judge Kreis looks forward to addressing the allegations in the Notice of Formal Proceedings as permitted by the Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance. While this matter is pending, Judge Kreis will continue to discharge his judicial responsibilities as required by law and the Canons of Judicial Ethics.”
Below is a partial list of the allegations spelled out in the Notice of Formal Proceedings. Remember, none of these allegations have been proven:
- At the end of an evening of drinking and socializing with friends in November 2018, an inebriated Kreis slapped a male acquaintance’s buttocks and then told the man’s wife that he was about to do the same to her. “After [the wife] firmly told you not to touch her in that way, you told her that you were going to do it anyway, and then hugged her and grabbed or slapped her buttock(s) without her consent,” the allegations say.
- At a 2015 party in the home of a female friend, Kreis went into the woman’s bedroom while she was sleeping, pulled down his pants and “had [his] penis out and near her face as [he] tried to awaken her,” according to one of the 19 counts.
- During a 2019 tour of historic Eureka homes, Kreis allegedly carried an alcoholic beverage into his vehicle and allowed his friends to do the same. “While you drove, you had a cup containing an alcoholic drink in one of your hands and steered with your other hand,” the document states.
- Kreis allegedly used cocaine for years prior to becoming a judge. In one case, the notice says, “you drove two attorneys to a house in Humboldt Hill for the purpose of purchasing cocaine. On the return trip, you used cocaine while driving.”
- In 2017, while Kreis was still an attorney, he was rude and sarcastic toward a deputy district attorney and, when she was out of earshot, called her a “bitch” or a “pretentious bitch,” the document states.
- During a 2019 Memorial Day pontoon boat party on Shasta Lake, Kreis allegedly inhaled cannabis from a vape pen and belittled Rory Kalin, calling him “Jewboy,” suggesting he should be fired and then shoving him, fully clothed, into the water. Kreis also mimicked having sex with the wife of then-Assistant Public Defender Luke Brownfield, per the allegations.
- Kreis is accused of violating the Code of Judicial Ethics by failing to disclose these events when Kalin appeared before him in a series of subsequent cases.
- Another accusation says Kreis managed to get a courtroom clerk fired for spreading rumors that he was having an extramarital affair with the court’s family law facilitator, even though those rumors were true. He later made false or misleading statements to the court’s then-presiding judge and court administrative officer, implying there was no such sexual relationship, the document says.
- When an attorney in the Conflict Counsel’s office told Kreis that she planned to file a motion to disqualify him, he allegedly threatened her with retaliation.
- Kreis failed to disclose his close personal friendship with David Nims, an attorney who appeared before him in a series of cases, and also failed to disclose the fact that Nims’ law partner, Patrick Griego, had represented him (Kreis) in the Kalin matter. Kreis was legally required to recuse himself in some cases but failed to do so, per the accusations.
- He also allegedly failed to disclose a close personal relationship with an attorney friend who he sometimes referred to as his second wife or his wife’s sister, and he went on to preside over more than a dozen cases at which the woman appeared.
- He failed to disclose his close friendship with Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo, who represented defendants in several cases in Kreis’s court.
- He failed to disclose a personal and professional relationship with a woman who appeared before him in conservatorship hearings.
- Kreis presided over proceedings for the dissolution of a marriage without disclosing that the woman in the case was a friend of his then-wife’s. In fact, the woman had attended a series of support group meetings for women with cancer that Kreis’s wife led, including at least two meetings in their own home. When the husband filed a motion to disqualify Kreis and later appealed Kreis’s ruling to give the woman sole legal custody of their daughter, Kreis provided statements that were “false, or with a reckless disregard for the truth.”
- Kreis violated due process in a custody dispute by awarding the mother full custody of a child based on an unreported conversation with the mom, and then failed to give the dad a chance to present evidence. When the father later challenged the ruling, Kreis “falsely declared that [he] had given the father ‘every opportunity to provide testimony and evidence in this matter …. ,’” the charges allege.
- In another child custody case, Kreis allegedly abused his authority and disregarded a father’s fundamental rights through prejudicial rulings, and over the course of the case Kreis lost his temper, ridiculed the man, issued a ruling “out of pique” and abused his authority by threatening to report the man’s attorney to the State Bar without any valid basis to do so.
The Commission on Judicial Performance is composed of six public members, three judges and two lawyers. As part of their inquiry, a hearing will be conducted at which the 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.
Judge Kreis’s answer to the Notice is due February 22. He is running for re-election in the March 5 Primary against attorney April Van Dyke.
- Lawsuit Accuses Humboldt County Judge of Drunkenly Attacking an Attorney, Throwing Him Off a Boat, and Says County Employees Tried to Cover It Up
- Through Attorney, Judge Denies Assaulting Deputy Public Defender at Lake Shasta Celebration
- TODAY in COURT: Date Set for Attorney’s Suit Against Judge for Alleged Abuse
- BREAKING: At Re-election Campaign Launch, Judge Kreis Says Lawsuit Against Him Has Been Settled
- Judge Dismisses Rory Kalin’s Lawsuit Against Humboldt County, Public Defender’s Office Employees