Judges hold an important and powerful position within our society. Being the ones to whom legal disputes are brought, judges also have a very high responsibility: to ensure the law is followed, both outside and inside the courtroom. However, Judge Cindy Mendoza seems to have forgotten that laws are still laws, even during a court hearing.
When former Judge Sandy Prindle went into Associate Judge Mendoza’s courtroom with his wife to observe a simple custody case, he was not expecting to be dismissed from the courtroom. Rather, he rightly assumed that there would be no issue, seeing that he, along with several other observers and court watchers, were simply exercising their Constitutional right to observe the hearing.
However, when a rogue attorney, Vaughn Bailey, attempted to take over the courtroom proceedings to force Judge Prindle and the others to be sworn in as witnesses, Judge Mendoza agreed. When Judge Prindle and the others tried to explain they were not witnesses, they were told they must be sworn in, or they could not stay. The observers were thus sworn in so they could stay. Bailey then proceeded to implement a rule in which all witnesses must leave the courtroom unless called – effectively forcing all non-witness observers to leave. Despite some discussion in the courtroom regarding the fact that this was unconstitutional, all the observers, including Judge Prindle and the court watchers, were forced to leave. Again, Judge Mendoza did nothing. Court coordinators, court reporters, and other attorneys went in and out of the closed courtroom, but the observers who were removed from the courtroom were never allowed back inside, and were detained outside the court for 5 hours.
Is this really the type of behavior that is befitting of someone who is supposed to be upholding the law? By allowing an attorney to single-handedly remove observers from the courtroom, Judge Cindy Mendoza acted unconstitutionally, jeopardizing the integrity of the court proceedings. The prosecuting attorney, Vaughn Bailey, reportedly made an offer to the mother involved in the suit that he would drop the charges if she would agree to relinquish her parental rights. She has since been sentenced to 180 days in jail to be distributed over the weekends, and has not been able to see or speak to her daughter for more than a year and a half.