California Judge Michael S. Williams, age 70, Napa County Superior Court, resigned after he was nailed for stealing two $30 to $50 art deco business cardholders in March 2016 from The City Club of San Francisco, which is a social club. His resignation is officially effective December 5. He can also retire that month.

Video captured Williams reportedly stealing the cardholders following a dinner, on March 9, 2016, hosted by a matrimonial lawyers association. The 70-year-old judge returned the card holders after he was told that he was seen on video boosting the item, according to the Commission on Judicial Performance – a California watchdog group.

Additionally, the commission said that he was notified when proceedings against him were launched for allegedly having violated canons of the “Code of Judicial Ethics.” The watchdog agency said his behavior undermined public’s confidence in the “judiciary.”

Judge resigned was set to retire ‘anyway’

Edith Matthai, the aging judge’s attorney, told the Los Angeles Times that Williams decided to resign instead of contesting the accusations since he was already planning to retire “anyway.” Williams, who became a judge in 2012, agreed to take “a leave” from the court bench on October 16. He has also agreed not to seek or “hold” judicial office. Before becoming a Superior Court Judge in Napa County, Williams was a court commissioner from 2001 until 2012.

The commission contends that Williams pocketed the card holders during a “Judge’s Night” dinner held by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Northern California Chapter.

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The complaint stated that the cardholders were for managers of the City Club. They were “consistent” with the décor of the social club, also art deco-style.

Judge allegedly had some wine, spotted and stole cardholders

Williams said he had a couple glasses of wine during the event, according to the commission. As the event came to a close, and people were leaving, the judge spied the cardholders on a table stationed near elevators on the 10th floor of the building.

He is alleged to have boosted, at least, one cardholder before leaving. But, he then returned to the scene, where he is accused of pocketing “one or two” additional cardholders before finally taking the elevator to the first floor.

Judge says ‘no excuse’ for behavior

Approximately two weeks later, the Los Angeles Times noted, a City Club “fellow” informed Williams that the heist was caught on security footage and suggested that the judge notifies the watchdog group. The next day, Williams returned the cardholders to the City Club along with a note stating that, though he had been drinking and not thinking of “what I was doing,” that there was no excuse.

On March 20, 2016, the judge informed the commission that he pocketed the cardholders. His intent was alleged to showcase “joke business cards” that he, along with a friend, had made four decades prior and that he “recently found.”

In writing of Williams’ having compromised the public’s trust in the judiciary’s integrity, the agency also noted that the judge’s decision to resign hastens protection to the public, as well as the judiciary’s reputation, by avoiding “the delay” that additional proceedings would create. The commission characterized Williams as feeling embarrassed, deeply remorseful, and regretful.