A disgrace to his profession.
For a lot of people with limited income, Small Claims Court is the only option for seeking justice. He apparently sees it as a buck to be passed.
My neighbor and I appeared before him because our new owner/landlord, who is upgrading the building, started renting the old, wooden garages beneath our apartments to a succession of homeless people who were camping overnight. One of them was arrested for meth possession and violent priors and rather than evicting her, our landlord championed her right to live in the garage and make our lives hell. Our landlord put up surveillance cameras that pointed into our front doors (the City Attorney thought this was worth investigating, though His Honor couldnâ€™t be bothered to hear about it.) The landlord began removing features of our apartments, citing estoppels that he had clearly falsified. And just two days after I filed my small claims complaint, he served me with a notice of eviction.
My one hope was that my small claims case would be heard before his eviction trial. Then I got this sad excuse for a judge.
He started by pointing out that I was suing a limited liability corporation. I asserted that limited liability doesnâ€™t mean you can break the law. He then asked me if I was citing a particular legal chapter or verse. He actually described it by a multi-digit numberâ€”like I was supposed to know what he was talking about. Then we all stood there in silence for three minutes while he flipped through a book. My impression was that this was a little game, a test of our ability to remain â€˜respectfullyâ€™ silent; he never found what he was looking for.
Then he shared his impression of the case, though I wasnâ€™t sure who he was talking to; I was more struck by the fact that he was doing so without having heard a word of testimony.
He said something like â€œHere we have a new owner whoâ€™s doing some things that the old tenants arenâ€™t happy aboutâ€¦â€
He looked at the first page or two of a notebook full of evidence and then announced that all thisâ€¦ (waving his hand over the notebook like it was a salad he was done with) â€¦all this would be better handled in eviction court.
So thanks to this guy, I was facing eviction for complaining about the homeless meth-head camping under my apartment. Way to hand out justice.
Fortunately, I got help from the Legal Aid people. They saved the day by determining that my landlordâ€™s lawyers hadnâ€™t filed the eviction paperwork properly and would have to start from scratch.
They also said that, had we gone to trial, only matters pertaining to my landlordâ€™s complaint against me (specifically that I had two dogs instead of one) would have been heard. So when Judge St. George delayed my case, saying it would all be better handled in eviction court, he was either very wrong or full of it.
It saddens me to think of the hundreds of people who come to Small Claims Court every week, seeking justice and end up in front of this guy. He clearly doesnâ€™t want to do his job, but why should so many suffer for it? He should stop punishing people who come to him for help. He should do an honorable thing and retire.
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MATTHEW ST. GEORGE - commissioner/judge
1725 Main Street, Santa Monica
City: Santa Monica
Commissioner - Superior Court, Santa Monica
Santa Monica Branch/Dept.