Judge John Trice caught hiding retirement pension from his ex – got lucky after she hired Christopher Duenow

UPDATE:  December 04, 2021 — Housekeeping matter.  Then California AG, Kamala Harris did not prosecute the former,  quickly retired Judge John Trice.  No quibbles with her current position.

The California Judicial Commission delivered a separate smack to Judge John Trice.  As a side note, defense counsel for Trice is based in San Diego.

:  December 10, 2015.  We have a call into the California Attorney General’s office.   As Judge Trice has essentially admitted to grand theft, it’s appropriate he be charged with Grand Theft by the AG since since the local DA appears content to let Judge Trice slide with grand theft described as “an administrative matter” by the Judicial Council.  If Kamela Harris does not prosecute Judge Trice for grand theft – should we trust her as California’s next senator?  Also, why isn’t the physical and economic safety of 50% of the population, not Kamela Harris’s first priority on the “issues.

What female, attorney or litigant; wants to appear before this guy?

Judge John Trice, San Luis Obispo Superior Court

Judge John Trice, of San Luis Obispo Superior Court was caught stiffing his ex-wife, Dawna. He was also caught planning to do so, months before.

News flash:  Judge John Trice got caught stiffing his ex-wife, Dawna, out of her federal retirement pension benefits; listed in their 1990 divorce settlement.

When caught, Judge Trice immediately threw his colleague, Commissioner Patrick Perry, (Dawna’s then, divorce attorney), under the nearest bus.

A tangled web, unwoven

It was not that Judge Trice simply refused to pay Dawna her earned retirement pension benefits accrued from his time in the Air Force; it was his pattern not paying her, extended for two years that caught the attention of the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

Actually, according to the Formal Proceedings filed by the Commission against Judge Trice, Trice toyed with the idea of putting Dawna’s earned amount in a trust  in case she asked –  reportedly adding if Dawna died first; well then, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So rather than pay Dawna her earned share, Judge Trice deposited Dawna’s earned portion into a separate credit union checking account.  (It is unknown whether the checking account was interest bearing; or; if so, who kept the interest.)

Judge Trice Ive got your back

Judge Trice to Dawna: “I’ve got your back.”

The Recorder somewhat covered it.  Sorta.  So did, allegedly, CalCoastnews.com

However, important details were wholly absent in the piece supposedly authored by “Staff” on October 27th, 2015.  So this article is more a reflection of how the courts work to make sure women don’t get their fair economic shake, in conjunction with a habitually relaxed media when it comes to covering economic crimes committed by men in power, against women.  (An article detailing the October 23, 2015 charges was finally published on October 28, 2015.)

Questions not asked.

Questions being a reporter’s stock and trade, one wonders how did reporters from both Cal Coast News, and The Recorder – two legal publications, not notice – or question that Judge Trice seems to have committed a forgery?  (Section 470.D.) Also known as:  A crime.  Or, how about Penal Code, Section 115?

115.  (a) Every person who knowingly procures or offers any false or
forged instrument to be filed, registered, or recorded in any public
office within this state, which instrument, if genuine, might be
filed, registered, or recorded under any law of this state or of the
United States, is guilty of a felony.
Dan Dow San Luis Obispo DA - Will Trice be charged

Will San Luis Obispo DA, Dan Dow – charge Judge Trice?

Instead of,  well – – coverage, Cal Coast News thoughtfully printed the entire Press Release, helpfully provided by Trice’s defense attorney, Eugene Iredale. Then the paper tip-toed, around the charges against Judge Trice.  Cal Coast News simply wrote:

“Judge John Trice is apparently facing charges of misconduct before the Judicial Council and the California Supreme Court according to a press release received from his defense attorney”

Apparently?  Apparently?!

Cal Coast News then fills the page with Iredale’s very long “press release.”

Apparently, no one from Cal Coast News picked up the phone.

Here’s an “apparently” for you.

Apparently, no Cal Coast News staffers read the actual, “Formal Proceedings.”  Had they  done so, perhaps a few of them would have noted the multiple, actual charges referenced in the document titled,


I mention this solely as “Exhibit A” regarding the sly way media exhibits its disdain for women, superbly demonstrated Cal Coast News.  (Thanks guys!)

Still, there’s time to regroup.  Cal Coast News reporters could redeem themselves by picking up the pace as well as the telephone, and ask DA Dow when he might pick up his pace.

Specifically, will DA Dan Dow act in conjunction with the Commission, or….what?

Women retire in Poverty

Reporters could begin with this key, question:  Was DA Dow aware Deputy DA Lee Cunningham rushed to Judge Trice’s assistance in a well-orchestrated press release by Judge Trice’s attorney?

If so, stand by for bandages, as Lady Justice was blind-sided again.

Still, the attention of the District Attorney’s office is merited as Judge Trice was also caught in the planning stages to deceive his ex-wife, Dawna Trice; before executing what seems like a crime to me.  For two years.  Did I mention this went on for t-w-o years?

Which makes the comments from Second-in-Command, Deputy DA, Lee Cunningham, that much creepier.  More on Lee, later.  However, readers should keep in mind, some pretty high ranking California judges are finally beginning to speak out regarding the epidemic of Prosecutorial Misconduct so readers should probably factor that in.

Unfortunately, after the planning and execution of what – (again) – seems like a crime to me, was discovered; it turns out Judge Trice had more than enough help for his continued efforts to hide his money making activities.

More than enough help;  and right close by, too.  All those foxes guarding the courthouse.   I mean, hen house.

Hat tip: Judicial Council Executive Officer, (AOC) Susan Matherly and USD Graduate, and top judge, Judge Barry LaBarbera….whose office while DA, ironically, was once sued over the tactics used to collect child support.

However, and separate from sloppy press; the case against Judge John Trice provides a great example how easily judges circle the wagons once they’ve been caught in illegal acts and alerted they are about to investigated by the California Commission on Judicial Performance.

The only question now, is:  Will media continue ignoring the DA ignoring what seems to be an kind of in-house crime?

Circling the wagons and battling back

Meanwhile, Exhibit A in how one gets ahead of the story.  (Although Iredale must have been ecstatic after Cal Coast News so helpfully blew the entire story.)

  1.  Hire a criminal defense attorney, who immediately issues a press release downplaying all charges.  In an added twist, blame a colleague!

Check and check!

Judge Trice hired San Diego attorney Eugene Iredale, who immediately issued the standard, sometimes hilarious press release.  Including a quote from the now retired Judge Roger Picquet, who was present when Judge Trice was calculating how he was going to stiff his ex-wife, Dawna.

Iredale got Judge Picquet to give Trice an enthusiastic, “Great judge!”  (No mention of the subject matter the Judicial Commission is addressing.)

Judge Roger Picquet

Roger Picquet

“Judge Trice is a great judge. I have worked closely with him the entire time he has been on the bench. He has handled some of the most difficult criminal cases ever tried in this county, and has done so with skill, professionalism and a keen sensitivity for all persons involved, including the jurors, victims, attorneys and defendants. His legal acumen and judgment is very well respected. His dedication to this community is also reflected in his involvement and creation of the Veterans Treatment Court, which is now seen as a successful model for other courts in the state.”

When I called Judge Picquet, he said he remembers the conversation being very brief, then offered the report was wrong, specifically, that during the time he and Judge Trice were chatting in February of 2012, when Judge Perry popped in,

“You had with you the number of points that was the fraction numerator, or Dawna’s share of your total number of points.  Estimates were made of your total points and the calculation of Dawns shares was discussed.”

Judge Picquet stated he thought that part of the report was inaccurate.  Judge Picquet said he did not know the points, didn’t discuss them, and that he remembers the conversation was very brief.

However, when I mentioned he was present when Judge Trice had months earlier, was actively calculating how to stiff his ex-wife before receiving his first pension payout, (keeping in mind one has to advise the military of the numbers) Judge Picquet said;

“I think ‘stiffing’ is a mis-characterization.”

So I asked, “How would you identify his not paying her for two years?”

Judge Picquet responded:  “I won’t comment on that.”

Judge Picquet offered that he didn’t know how Judge Trice was supposed to know where Dawna was, having been divorced so long ago.  I responded it wasn’t about a continuing relationship with an former spouse; but Trice had a duty to report accurate information to the military.  He wasn’t required to send his ex-wife a Christmas card.  Trice’s only obligation was to send the military accurate information about her.  Which Trice clearly refused to do.

As Judge Picquet was not willing to state the obvious, perhaps out of misguided loyalty, I didn’t see much point asking him about Trice’s throwing the Commissioner Patrick under the bus in an furious effort to continue avoiding any sort of accountability.

But I did offer one comment.  As all the complaints featured Trice’s problems with women, (obviously self-created with Dawna) including snarky emails and a temper tantrum against one female court reporter, I did say I couldn’t imagine Trice has good relationships with well, binders of women.

Back to the battle stations

2.  As the charges indicate a significant problem with women, it was imperative defense counsel obtain a couple quotes from women, while making sure that he, as Trice’s top defender, sounded somewhat aggrieved while downplaying all charges.

Check and check!

First Alert, Ladies:  As Court Executive Officer  Susan Matherly, (AOC) and former Witness Services Director, Cindy Marie Asbey, (below) demonstrated:  Don’t expect women to do the right thing on behalf of other women.  This includes when it’s specifically; in one’s job description.

Cindy Marie Absey - worked against some victims when Judge Trice was involved

In retirement, Cindy Marie Absey – worked against Judge Trice’s economic victim.

Cindy Marie Absey, former director of the district attorney victim assistance unit:

“As director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Division of the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office for 30 years, I worked with John Trice both in his career as a prosecutor and later as a judge. During his prosecution of the Rex Krebs capital murder case in 1999-2000, I witnessed firsthand John’s consummate competency and compassionate and respectful treatment of crime victims and their families. Over his years on the bench, Judge Trice has conducted countless hearings and trials with professional and respectful comportment towards all court users, and has consistently ensured that the rights of crime victims were balanced with those of offenders.”

Hmmm.  Guess Cindy Marie Absey wasn’t too concerned about the rights of Dawna Trice.

3.  Get ahead of the game by getting a quote from a Deputy DA.


San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham:

“As a trial attorney, I’ve been appearing in the San Luis Obispo county courts on a daily basis for 35 years. Many of those years, I was assigned to Superior Court Judge John Trice’s courtroom. In my opinion, Judge Trice exhibits those qualities that I have come to most appreciate in a judge. He is intelligent, even-tempered, fair, patient, and he has a good sense of humor. Even before Marcy’s law was enacted, he always treated victims in his courtroom with dignity and respect. He allows them as much time as they need when they struggle to get their stories and feelings out. He treats defendants, attorneys, witnesses, jurors and staff with dignity as well.

He works hard, and is always prepared. On those occasions when he has ruled against me, I knew that my arguments had been heard and considered, and the issue was one on which reasonable minds may differ. It has been a pleasure to appear in Judge Trice’s court. The San Luis Obispo bench is a better place because of his presence.”

Cunningham is second-in-command.  Cunningham’s job prior to becoming a district attorney?  Police officer.  Since police officers have a 40% higher rate of domestic violence than other occupations, and since police departments are notoriously not women friendly; Iredale almost out-did himself with a quote from Cunningham.

And now for the Bonus.  Seriously, how lucky could Judge John Trice get?!

Or put another way, why wasn’t anyone looking after Dawna Trice?

Second Alert, Ladies: It would be wonderful if women understood the loyalty they thought they secured from hiring attorneys to represent their best interests; often produces another, more self-serving for future cases, result.

Dawna hired Christopher Duenow to secure for her, the retirement benefits she learned Trice had been keeping hidden from her for two plus years.

However, instead of acting zealously on behalf of his client, Dawna, Duenow agreed to assist Judge Trice who first didn’t pay Dawna, then facilitated the hiding from public view, that he had cheated Dawna, for two years.

Did Duenow use the information to achieve a better result for Dawna?  Duenow isn’t saying, and we don’t know whether he was able to extract an amount greater than the interest owed.  Or if he even tried.  That would be interesting to know.

Christopher Duenow - opted to support Judge Tice instead of his client - Dawna Tice

Christopher Duenow – the Family Law specialist who agreed to hide from the courts, Judge Trice’s  refusal to pay his ex.  Duenow was representing Dawna Trice at the time.

So first thing Friday morning I telephoned Duenow.  It was 6:00a.m.  I was expecting to leave a message, but Duenow picked up. After a brief introduction, I said,

BR:  “I am failing to understand why you agreed to act in a way that shielded Judge Trice’s misdeeds from scrutiny when his ex-wife was your client.”

Duenow:  “I don’t have any comment.”

BR: “But that doesn’t make you look very good.”

Duenow:  “I don’t have any comment.”

BR:  “Okay.  I’ll put that in the piece.”

But don’t despair dear reader.  This case represents a superior example how Judges circle the wagons after they’ve been caught in illegal acts, including with, apparently, the DA’s help.

Fyi:  If curious, Here are some of Judge Trice’s past supporters.

Skirting the normal judicial process

Judge Trice went to great lengths to make sure his newly Stipulated, “Yes, I finally promise to pay what is owed her” was not executed through normal channels.  This was possible with the help of Susan Matherly, and Judge Barry LaBarbera who executed the go-around.

The premise for this was a spectacular act of self-serving hogwash; with Judge Tice saying he wanted it that way so other judges wouldn’t disqualify themselves from signing it.

Sure.  That’s believable.

(P.S.  The Judicial Commission already stated that was an abuse of power.)

In the case of Susan Matherly, it appears in the past, she has been more than willing to bend, if not break, the rules.

Sidebar:  It’s also worth noting, Matherly shut down critical court reporting services, because it’s family court.  Although this renders appeals hopeless as the Appellate jurists rely on transcripts, this appears of no concern for Matherly. When I spoke to Matherly about it Friday morning; she said the family court had court reporters.

When I read Matherly the announcement on the court’s own website that stated otherwise, she added,

“Well, for the most part, our Family Courts had court reporters.  Two out of three are covered.”

When I asked about the “third” Matherly said then litigants would have to enter into a Stipulated Agreement.

(Hint:  Don’t.  Instead, Stipulate to one’s case being heard in one of the other two courts staffed with court reporters.  It’s pretty much one’s only shot for the appellate process.)

Matherly hung up before I could ask anything more.

In conclusion

The “Formal Proceedings” detailed Judge Trice’s prior rants against a supervising female judge and another female court reporter.

However, if in 2012, Judge Trice could act so brazenly against a woman who left the state after their 1990 divorce; why would any attorney allow any female litigant to appear before him?  Clearly the guy has issues.

For that matter, why would any female attorney agree to appear before him?

For that matter, why is Trice on the bench?  Why hasn’t he had sense enough to step down.

For that matter, will the DA investigate Trice’s conduct, or continue to provide a prearranged, pass?

Click the follow button and find out.  This is one case that deserves ongoing reporting.


About bonnie russell

It's not about me....it’s always about people.
This entry was posted in California Commission on Judicial Performance, California Judicial Commission, Divorce, Media, misogyny and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Judge John Trice caught hiding retirement pension from his ex – got lucky after she hired Christopher Duenow

  1. Willard Franklin says:

    This is in the very same county were Kristen Smart was killed & then disappeared in.

    There is allot of crooks in the government there.


  2. Sally Spelbring says:



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