Chief federal judge in LA resigns over racially charged comment about Black court official

The chief judge of the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, has resigned over racially charged comments about a Black court official.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The chief judge of the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles, has resigned over racially charged comments about a Black court official.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney made the announcement in an e-mail and says he has apologized to the woman, Kiry K. Gray. But he says he knows that will not put the matter to rest.

"There will be division in the Court, unnecessary, negative and hurtful publicity, and a diversion from the Court's essential mission of administering justice if I were to continue serving as the Chief District Judge," Carney said in an e-mail obtained by Eyewitness News. "I cannot allow the Court to become politicized and embroiled in controversy."

Gray has served as a federal court employee for 35 years.

Carney will remain a federal judge, but another jurist will take over the duties of chief district judge. Carney had just started a four-year term June 1.

The announcement stems from comments Carney made a during a webinar sponsored by the Federal Bar Association on June 9, 2020. Carney said he used the term "street smart" to describe Gray.

"This term was one of many words I used to recognize and compliment Ms. Gray regarding her work on the Court Reopening Plan," Carney explained. "Please know that I had no intent to offend Ms. Gray or anyone else by my use of the term. To me, the term means a person of great common sense, initiative, and ability to work with people and get things done. It saddened me greatly to learn that some people view the term to be demeaning to people of color."

Carney said in another conversation with Gray, he learned some people upset with the term believed he should resign.

"In a moment of anger and frustration, I said to Ms. Gray that the people criticizing me were equating my well-intended use of the term "street smart" with the reprehensible conduct of a police officer putting his knee on a person's neck.

"My statement was wrong. It was directed at my critics, not Ms. Gray, and I said it with no ill will or disrespect towards people of color. My statement was an insensitive and graphic overreaction to the criticism that was leveled against me. I never should have made the comparison."

Carney said in the email that Judge Philip S. Gutierrez would take over as chief district judge.

Carney, who grew up in Long Beach and graduated from UCLA is a former Orange County Superior Court judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 to a lifetime post on the federal bench.

City News Service contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.