Should murder trial of Orange County judge be moved to another jurisdiction?

David González Image
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Murder case against OC judge likely to change venues
The murder case against Orange County judge Jeffrey Ferguson is likely to be moved outside the county, a legal expert believes.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Questions over how a criminal case against Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson can move forward have been swirling ever since he was arrested for allegedly shooting and killing his wife.

The 72-year-old is accused of murdering his wife, 65-year-old Sheryl Ferguson, on Thursday inside their Anaheim Hills home.

Ferguson was released from jail after posting $1 million bail.

Brian Kabateck, an attorney with over 30 years' experience in California, said a homicide case like this one would normally be assigned to an Orange County judge. However, he said it's very unlikely that will happen with Ferguson's case.

"It'll be sent to another court," said Kabateck. "My best guess is, it'll be sent to LA County because LA County has over 500 judges. LA County has a complex criminal division. It could be sent to San Diego."

Before he was elected a judge in 2015, Ferguson worked for the Orange County District Attorney's Office, starting in 1983.

"My guess is that the Orange County District Attorney's Office will recuse itself," Kabateck said. "In other words, will step back and say, 'We have a conflict. We're not going to handle this.' And then it'll be kicked up to the attorney general in the state of California."

The Orange County court system itself also has a major conflict of interest, according to Kabateck.

"This is their colleague," he said. "Remember, there's a relatively small number of judges in Orange County. They all know each other. They all have personal and professional relationships, and that's where the conflict comes from."

In addition, he said Judge Ferguson's current caseload would also have to be reassigned.

"Cases which are ongoing, where there's motions being heard, where there may be a trial underway; in those cases, they're going to have to basically hit the reset button and start over. It will be assigned to another judge," said Kabateck.

If the case is dropped or ends in acquittal, Kabateck doubts Ferguson will ever be able to return to the bench as a judge in a criminal court because of the murder allegations made against him.