All orders entered by a temporary judge found biased based on a party’s unanswered statement of disqualification are void, and a marital settlement agreement tainted by those orders is unenforceable. A judge (including a lawyer serving as a temporary judge) has three options when faced with a party’s filing a statement of disqualification against him under CCP 170.3. The judge can ask another judge, consented to by the parties, to serve in his place. He may consent to disqualification. Or the judge can file a written, verified answer admitting and denying the statement’s averments. When, as in this case, the judge does none of these things, he is deemed to have admitted the truth of the allegations in the statement of disqualification, and the opposing party gets no chance to disprove those allegations. Here, wife claimed that the temporary judge and husband’s lawyers traded off, each picking the other as temporary judge for their divorce cases, a potentially disqualifying fact that the temporary judge had not disclosed as required by the applicable canons of the Code of Judicial Ethics. As the temporary judge did nothing in response to these allegations, they were deemed true. All of the orders entered by the temporary judge over the course of two years before disqualification were void and the marital settlement agreement which was “tainted” by those orders was decreed to be unenforceable.
California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2 (Kline, P.J.; Richman, J., dissenting); August 3, 2016; 2016 WL 4132462