The Commission on Judicial Performance says Richard W. Stanford Jr. transferred his friends' traffic ticket cases into his own courtroom and greatly reduced those citations. The commission reported nine separate occasions between 2005 and 2010.
The commission ruled his pattern of misconduct was particularly egregious and his removal was necessary to "restore public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
Stanford admitted to the preferential treatment and has since apologized and denied any malicious intent. His attorney said he would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
A clerk who felt uncomfortable with Stanford's handling of a case led to the commission's investigation. In that particular case, Stanford ordered his son-in-law's nearly $500 ticket for running a red light in 2010 be reduced to $40.
The commission found that Stanford also acted in similar manner with two traffic tickets received by his church pastor and an elderly neighbor.
The 10-member commission, who voted unanimously on the matter, said they didn't believe a 26-year veteran of the judiciary failed to appreciate that his actions were wrong.
Commission Chair Judith McConnell said the commission was taking its action despite Stanford's stellar reputation on and off the bench.
Stanford's colleagues in Orange County say that he was a hard-working jurist known to rule "by the book."
McConnell also noted that Stanford volunteers five days a week at his church's homeless shelter, where he serves as the facilities administrator, and that he and his wife spend a week's vacation each year volunteering at a camp for foster-care children.
"Unfortunately, Judge Stanford used his judicial power in a manner that gravely tarnished the integrity of the judicial system," McConnell concluded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.