Kreis at his re-election campaign launch in December. | File photo.


As of today, Gregory Kreis is not only a former presiding judge of the Humboldt County Superior Court but a former judge, period, in the state of California. 

Less than four months after the California Commission on Judicial Performance launched an investigation into 19 counts of alleged misconduct, including inappropriate sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use and making false or misleading declarations in court, Kreis has resigned from the bench and agreed to never again seek or hold judicial office in the state.

Per the terms of a signed agreement reached last month, Kreis has been publicly censured over 17 acts of admitted misconduct. Also per the terms of the deal, which the commission accepted on May 15, the misconduct investigation is now over.

Many of the charges in the investigation stemmed from an alcohol-fueled Memorial Day celebration in 2019. Former Public Defender Rory Kalin filed a lawsuit accusing Kreis of verbally and physically attacking him, repeatedly calling him “Jew-boy” and throwing him off of the houseboat on which the party took place. 

That lawsuit was dismissed in December, and the agreement reached last month does not include an admission of antisemitism. But Kreis acknowledges misconduct in his failure to disclose his personal relationship with both Kalin and former Assistant Public Defender Luke Brownfield, a “close personal friend,” in cases over which he presided.

Kreis also admits to various other ethical violations across a series of cases. Those violations include:

  • nepotism and favoritism
  • prejudicial misconduct
  • abuse of authority
  • making false or misleading statements about himself
  • making sarcastic or gratuitous comments
  • failure to disclose his personal relationships with attorneys and his familiarity with individuals involved in matters before him
  • failure to be patient, dignified and courteous to people he dealt with in an official capacity
  • failure to remain faithful to the law regardless of partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism, and
  • failure to cooperate with judicial disciplinary agencies.

“Judge Kreis’s misconduct seriously undermines public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” Commission Chair Michael A. Moodian writes in the agreement.

Kreis also admits to an allegation that in 2018, after an evening of drinking and socializing with friends, he slapped a woman’s buttocks despite the fact that she had firmly told him not to. 

The document released by the commission today says its members take that matter particularly seriously. “Sexual misconduct severely undermines public esteem for the integrity of the judiciary,” Moodian writes. “Treating women disrespectfully, including unwanted touching, reflects a sense of entitlement completely at odds with the canons of judicial ethics and the role of any judge.”

The commission says that Kreis’s resignation and agreement not to seek or hold judicial office “effectively reaches the same resolution as removal” while maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the judicial system.

Kreis was appointed to the bench in 2017 by former Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. The investigation into his misdeeds made national headlines, and in March he lost his re-election bid to challenger April Van Dyke.

Humboldt County Superior Court today announced that Judge Kelly L. Neel is now the new presiding judge, with Judge Timothy A. Canning serving as assistant presiding judge. 

Kreis’s vacancy will be filled by visiting judicial officers until the end of the year, after which Van Dyke will assume her spot on the bench.