FULLERTON (CBS) — An Orange County Superior Court judge was removed from office Wednesday by a state oversight panel for helping friends and relatives get out of traffic tickets for minimal costs.

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Judge Richard W. Stanford Jr. had previously apologized for his conduct, but the state Commission on Judicial Performance ruled that his pattern of misconduct was particularly egregious and tarnished the image of a fair and impartial judiciary.

KNX 1070’s Mike Landa reports one legal analyst says the case is a classic example of the slippery slope that leads to any abuse of power.

“I think it started innocently enough with his trying to do a favor, but so often how lawyers and judges get in trouble, something that starts innocently becomes a pattern, and here it was something that no judge should do,” said UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

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The Commission on Judicial Performance filed a complaint last year against Stanford, who works in the North Justice Center in Fullerton.

In most of the cases, Stanford arranged to have most fees and fines waived for relatives and friends who received tickets, except for a $51 traffic school fee, in exchange for guilty pleas and referral to traffic school, according to the commission’s complaint.

During a disciplinary hearing in July of last year, Stanford’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, argued that the judge did not realize he was committing an ethical breach.

Stanford later agreed to pay the difference the state would have received in fees and fines and donated an equal amount to charity while apologizing for his conduct, the attorney said.

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Meyer also said the judge declined to help other people with more serious legal matters, including a brother-in-law who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

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