Sacramento Judge Peter James McBrien Dismembers Park Trees and Families In Contempt for Law

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August 3rd, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sacramento County, California, is the home turf for Superior Court Judge Peter James McBrien. It is there he feels comfortable to show his true nature as a criminal, abusive and biased judge, and scourge of children and families throughout the county. We’ll be covering McBrien’s kangaroo family court misconduct in future articles and have already been getting some input from readers who have been cursed with this judge. But this first article in the series focuses on McBrien’s crimes a decade ago involving his criminal conviction for premeditated vandalism against public property that aptly shows how little regard he has for the law and the public.

McBrien has a fetish for chopping living things to bits. Beyond the usual family law judge practice of chopping up families, children, parents, income, and assets to pad the pockets of friends in the divorce industry and ensure judicial job security, he also enjoys chopping down trees on public property for his own benefit.

When trees in a county park blocked the view of the American River from his exclusive home up on a bluff, he paid Mark Chamberlin of the Titan Tree Company to illegally chop down the trees which cropped his view. A local real estate expert estimates that he increased the value of his home by $100,000 by improving the view by his illegal actions. Paying to illegally chop down five mature oaks and three younger ones to get a a nicer view is apparently the sort of thing Judge McBrien thinks is acceptable conduct. He clearly believes that his interests trump those of the public and the law. He also knows that it is virtually impossible for anybody to hold him accountable for his actions because of judicial immunity and the influence he wields over local attorneys, judges, and law enforcement.

Witness Saw McBrien Supervising Tree Destruction

When Park Ranger Steve Flannery investigated the illegal tree cutting, he questioned neighbors in the area. He was pointed in the direction of the McBrien family by Susan Arthur, their next-door neighbor, who reported she had seen what happened. Flannery visited the McBrien home where Barbara McBrien denied all knowledge of the cutting and issued thinly veiled threats that her husband is a judge. That Mrs. McBrien is a fan of judicial abuse should be expected because she benefits directly from it via her husband’s virtual immunity to the law despite a long and growing history of criminal and judicial misconduct.

Susan Arthur was very clear that the McBriens were involved with the illegal tree cutting and clearly knew the eight destroyed trees were located in a county park.

(from A view to kill for)

After enlisting help from a supervisor, Flannery returned to the top of the bluff later that same day, where they were contacted by Susan Arthur, the next-door neighbor of the McBriens, who said she had witnessed the cuttings. Arthur also had additional information about the chain of events leading up to the crime, which were recorded in the court records. “Ms. McBrien told Ms. Arthur that they were going to be cutting oaks from the nature area so that they would have a better view of the river from their property,” reads the district attorney investigator’s affidavit, in the court file. “Ms. Arthur told the park ranger that she tried to change Ms. McBrien’s mind about topping the trees before the first cutting occurred. Ms. Arthur told Ms. McBrien that she had read an article in the newspaper about another incident in which someone had been heavily fined for cutting down trees in the nature area. Ms. McBrien allegedly told Ms. Arthur that, ‘We just can’t live here and not have a view of the river.’ ” The document also revealed that Flannery had been told by Arthur that “on several occasions prior to the tree cutting in 1999, she and Ms. McBrien went on guided bird watching walks hosted by the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. … The walks had taken them to the area below the Arthur and McBrien residences. It was clear to her and should have been clear to Ms. McBrien that the area behind their homes, located in the nature area, was county property.” (Contacted at her home, Arthur declined to discuss any aspect of the case.)

Since the investigators had an eyewitness who had claimed to have watched the McBriens in the act of supervising and assisting Titan Tree Company owner Mark Chamberlin in taking a chain saw to the majestic oaks, that aspect of the investigation came together quickly. The court records note: “Ms. Arthur observed that Barbara and Peter McBrien and their two sons were in the backyard while Mr. Chamberlin was topping the trees. Mr. McBrien was using a rope to help Mr. Chamberlin get down the slope of the bluff. While standing in the backyard watching Mr. Chamberlin, different members of the family would call out that another tree or limb needed to be cut.” And with the motive established and the suspects identified, all that remained was to officially appraise the damage and file the criminal case. (Chamberlin also declined comment when contacted by phone.)

Dishonesty and contempt for the law runs in the McBrien family. Wife Barbara McBrien is cut from a similar vein of malicious selfishness and narcissism as her husband.

Felony Vandalism

After an investigation that included a search warrant to obtain incriminating records from Titan Tree Company, Peter McBrien and Mark Chamberlin were charged with felony vandalism for their crimes. That lasted all of about two days.

(from A view to kill for)

On October 28, 2000, Deputy District Attorney Albert Locher filed criminal case FO8821, charging McBrien and Chamberlin with a violation of Penal Code Section 594—felony vandalism—for “unlawfully and maliciously” damaging oak trees belonging to the county of Sacramento Parks and Recreation Department. But instead of issuing an arrest warrant, Locher issued a summons in lieu of a warrant, which enabled the judge to avoid the humbling and demeaning arrest and booking process. Locher concedes that the rarely used summons procedure was an “accommodation” for McBrien, but cited concerns about the judges safety had he undergone the customary arrest and county jail booking procedure. “There are always security issues when we bring a judge or law enforcement officer into jail,” he explained.

In less than 48 hours after being charged with felonies, the local DA, likely an associate of McBrien and his judge and attorney friends as is common in many localities, agreed to a plea bargain deal in which the felony charges were reduced to a misdemeanor with $20,000 restitution and a $500 fine. It is two-track justice, those in government and their friends get preferential treatment and mere commoners get the shaft.

Not only was that a great deal on bumping the value of his home by $100,000, it was good for McBrien’s job security. That’s because the only three legal ways to get rid of a California judge are imprisonment for a criminal conviction, an election or recall election, and removal from office by the California Commission on Judicial Performance or California Supreme Court. A felony conviction might have resulted in prison time so the DA helped McBrien stay on the bench. One wonders what favors might have been exchanged for that.

Commission on Judicial Performance Whitewashes Judicial Misconduct

CJP is a spineless organization that covers up judicial misconduct as its mission. It nominally takes complaints and is to investigate them while making the investigations open to public review. But the reality is that it suppresses information about the complaints and helps judges to prevent any serious impact to their careers. For example, in 2000, around the time of the McBrien tree cutting episode, it buried 948 out 951 complaints so the public could not see them. In the complaints it does investigate, it generally takes multiple years to investigate and often issues public admonishments and censures after elections. This helps keep the voters in the dark about what a judge has done wrong, thus helping the judge to be re-elected.

Although CJP has the authority to remove a judge from the bench, it seldom does so. What it generally does, if anything, is to issue a private or public admonishment and time it to minimize its impact. Drunk driving, sexual harassment, vandalism, false imprisonment, and other crimes are all routinely whitewashed by CJP.

Here’s what CJP had to say publicly about McBrien’s illegal tree cutting.


It amounts to nothing much, a bit of verbal criticism with no real bite.

Unlike drunk driving convictions and many other crimes, what McBrien did was a premeditated felony. It very well demonstrates that the man believes he is above the law. CJP should have considered this a more serious matter than they did.

In McBrien’s case, he’s been “punished” twice now. The latest is a public censure for misconduct in a 2006 divorce trial. McBrien was up for re-election in November 2008. Even though this was a very clear-cut case of violations, CJP didn’t issue the public censure against him until January 2010, just over a year after the election. Undoubtedly this helped McBrien get re-elected. Imagine what the results might have been if the public censure had been issued six months to a year before the election. Similar timing can be observed in many other notices issued by CJP.

CJP should be paying attention to election timing. The public needs information to determine whether to re-elect a judge. By failing to timely handle judicial misconduct cases, CJP is impeding the public’s ability to make competent election decisions on judges.

CJP is clearly not operating in the public interests by its actions. Its composition makes this virtually certain to be the case. Traditionally, the majority of CJP members are current or former judges, attorneys, or relatives of a judge. These people have every interest in ensuring that judges can violate the law and people’s rights with impunity because they directly or indirectly benefit from it. In recent years, the number of “public members” who might not be so aligned has increased to provide the illusion of impartiality. But if you investigate the background of these members, it is clear that many of them are connected with the judicial legal community they are asked to police.

McBrien’s Misconduct Continues

Judge McBrien didn’t stop with dismembering trees nor was the 2006 divorce trial debacle mentioned above the only other troublesome activity. He’s been busying himself dismembering children’s lives, their parents’ assets and income, and the legal rights of litigants who appear before him in family law court. Either despite this or because of it (it’s not clear which given the corrupt nature of Sacramento family law courts), he was elevated to Presiding Family Law Judge for a time. He is still on the bench in Sacramento County court today.

Taking a look at the many complaints piling up at the Petition to Recall Judge Peter McBrien webpage, it’s clear there are many disgruntled litigants.

The comments are all over the map but consistently indicative of the same kinds of abuses that are occurring with great regularly in courts across California and the United States. They includes complaints of wrongly blocking all or nearly all contact between children and a parent, showing bias to attorney friends of his who appeared in his courtroom, refusing to hear witnesses and examine evidence, using questionable legal technicalities to determine judgments rather than the overall weight of evidence and testimony, causing bankruptcies, inappropriately using section 730 psychological and custody evaluations, and more.

One comment that was particularly interesting is this one:

Trina Werly-Seemster on Apr 1, 2008

Judge Peter McBrien presided over my case in 1992. Rather than obey his order and send my daughter back to her father who sexually abused her, I served a 12 year sentence for voluntary manslaughter for his death. It was worth every day I did! I hope no more families have to go through his hellish courtroom. A nightmare from beginning to end. I will gladly sign this petition.

While I have as yet no information on which to judge the veracity of the comment, it certainly appears the willingness to murder another person due to a family court decision does raise some questions about the way the matter was handled. After all, family courts should be functioning to calm conflicts, not increase them.

State Investigation of Sacramento Family Law Courts Underway

Those who have been abused in Sacramento County Family Law Courts should be aware that the State of California is investigating problems with these courts. The state has issued a public notice regarding an audit of the courts which states the following:


To all persons who have had a family law or paternity case filed in the Superior Court of Sacramento County The Bureau of State Audits is currently conducting an
audit of the Sacramento Family Court. The Bureau of State Audits represents that the audit will provide information related to child custody cases in the Sacramento County Family Court system during the most recent four-year period regarding the processes the court employs in deciding to use court-appointees such as mediators, investigators, or evaluators including the payment, training, and evaluation of such court-appointees.

Your family law or paternity case file may be selected for review by the Bureau of State Audits as part of that audit. In that respect, the Bureau of State Audits has directed the court to provide “full and unfettered access” to the selected case files including confidential and/or sealed portions of those files. The access would include the Bureau of State Audits examining and reproducing any portion of the selected case files.

For more information on the audit, a copy of the audit scope and objectives is available on the Bureau of State Audits’ public website,

If you should have any questions or concerns about the audit, all such inquiries should be made to Gloria Gamino of BSA at (916) 445-0255.

More To Come On McBrien

We’ll be featuring more information on Judge McBrien as he keeps making the news due to his ongoing misconduct including his latest public censure in 2010. Check back here for updates. We’ll link this article to any newer ones for your reference.

In the meantime, you might watch this impassioned video plea below from a father being harmed by the Sacramento family law courts who wants to help other families fight the abusive family law system. He says he was almost at the “end of his rope” thinking of leaving the United States to save himself from the family law court abuse, but realized that he wants to help others protect their children and themselves from court abuse.

The 2014 documentary Divorce Corp. includes a segment on judicial misconduct by Judge McBrien against another parent, Ulf Carlsson. McBrien walked out of a cross-examination and prematurely ended a trial and making all decisions against Carlsson, thereby violating his rights to due process. Carlsson filed an appeal. When McBrien learned of it, he retaliated by using his personal contacts to have Carlsson’s employer fire him.

Despite the many complaints filed against McBrien, the California Commission on Judicial Performance has for many years done nothing meaningful to correct McBrien’s pattern of abusive misconduct. The lesson for the public should be that if you end up in McBrien’s court, he can do anything he wants to you, no matter how illegal and unethical it may be, and if you dare speak up he will find another way to hurt you more and nobody in the government will lift a finger to put a stop to it.

CJP has time and again shown that few California judges are unlikely to be subjected to meaningful disciplinary action for any action, no matter how poorly it reflects upon the judiciary or how abusively treated a victimized citizen was. This is not just for McBrien or just in the Sacramento courts, it is a pervasive problem throughout the state. San Diego drunk driving tyrant Judge Lisa Schall is another example of CJP exempting judges as being unaccountable to laws or ethical standards.

One of the few examples of California judge being brought down by a CJP complaint is Judge DeAnn Salcido, also of San Diego. Why did she lose her job when other judges consistently do not? Despite the official story, it was not because of her ludicrous TV show antics in the courtroom. The real reason she was forced to resign was that she challenged the legal conduct of multiple other sitting judges in what is clearly a forbidden act for anyone in California.

In despotic California, the state will hardly ever protect a citizen from government misconduct. They will try every means available to whitewash crimes by government employees. The CJP wholly embraces a policy of the law functioning as a weapon for the state to use against its citizens and to shield state employees from accountability for their abuses and crimes.

The CJP seems to think the role of a judge in California is to harm others for the profit and advantage of the state, the court, and their friends. Anybody who is seen as mounting a challenge to that is regarded as an enemy to be destroyed at all costs. If a judge challenges the conduct of other judges who are obedient servants of the despotic State of California, then CJP is likely to take some action to protect what is for all intents and purposes a criminal cartel running the state’s courts. This disgusting state of affairs will likely continue until the crony-laden CJP, today stacked with family members of judges and attorneys friendly to judges, is replaced by a judicial accountability body that is staffed by victims of the court. Such people have a justifiable axe to grind and little to no incentive to game the judicial system for their own profit. Therefore it would be much more likely they would figuratively chop off the heads of the many criminally-minded judges in California, thereby helping protect the general citizenry from the court crime cartel.

Further Reading

California Legislature Orders Investigation of Family Law Courts

A view to kill for

Judge dread: Peter J. McBrien’s conduct in divorce case raises red flags

Sacramento judge denies ‘disgracing the American Judiciary System’:
The strange and bewildering case of Judge Peter J. ‘Chainsaw’ McBrien

CJP Severely Censures Sacramento Superior Court Judge McBrien

Editorial: Judges shouldn’t be above the law

RateThisJudge page on Judge Peter James McBrien

RateTheCourts page on Judge Peter James McBrien

Judge Peter McBrien found to violate the Judicial Code of Ethics on four counts

Letter writing campaign to the CJP

Petition to Recall Judge Peter McBrien

  1. One of Thousands
    August 3rd, 2010 at 11:40 | #1

    Yet another event showing the rampant fascism and abuse of power into which our country is sinking. Here’s the deal:

    Fascism: Make everyone look and act like me, or what I think people should look and act like, so control everyone to “direct” humankind — including human resources, children, and flesh and blood.

    Liberalism: Let people be who they want to be, so long as they don’t hurt each other, steal, or break stuff.

    Our country was founded on liberal principles because our founders were pissed off after being dominated — and often killed — by other people. In the case of our founders, it was the King of England. They set up a government that prevented that very government and those who had control of the government from being fascists. Government was restricted — limited — by “rights guaranteed to the people.” Don’t tread on me, don’t tell me what to say, what to think, who to hang out with, etc.

    In which category does family court fall? Do judges restrain themselves to let the chips fall where they may among fit parents, or do they redirect resources, children, and flesh and blood where >they< think it should go?

    In a society dominated by the unchecked power of a few, the few can control the direction of the future — not only their future, but the future of the society. If those few don't respect principles of liberalism (let people be who they want to be), they can have tremendous influence on the direction of a society, a race, a nation, a species, a world. If the few chose to exert their power, freedom — the freedom this nation was founded on — evaporates, and everyone and everything begins to look just the way the few want it to look: Just like them.

    Anybody here think society should look like a family court judge?

  2. Bill
    July 22nd, 2012 at 11:07 | #2

    As a Victim of Peter McBrien, I must warn everyone about his actions in handling cases in Sacramento Superiior court. He has family members that are attorneys in which Peter McBrien and his staff refers potential clients to his family members on State Official Business. In addition, gross misconduct and favoritsm, bias, and dirty tatics are conducted by this Renegade Judge and Jennifer O’Biren (AKA Jennifer McCarthy) whom recently handled my Family Law matter. Complaints for Judcial Council, California State Bar Association and California WhistleBlower are currently being prepared and will be submitted. In addition, these copies will be distributed to SNR, and Sacbee. If you have a case with this Judge or an opposing counsel related to this crocked Convicted Judge, file a change of venue immediately. More to come soon

    Freddie Krugger probably could get nominated as a Judge if California allows convicts to be Justice of Peace or a Peace Officer…. totally INJUSTICE!!!

  3. July 23rd, 2012 at 22:57 | #3

    @ Bill

    When you get your complaints ready for filing, if you like you could email us a copy and we will publish them so the public can read them. You can redact information you want to remain private such as the names of children.

    As this article points out, CJP frequently buries and mishandles complaints to let abusive judges off the hook and to hide their misconduct from the public. As a result, we think all complaints against judges should have the opportunity to be made visible to the general public.

  4. Bill
    July 30th, 2012 at 10:50 | #4



    Do you have an email address I can send these complaints?

  5. July 31st, 2012 at 20:41 | #5

    @ Bill

    Anybody looking to email us information such as CJP complaints they would like published can email it to [email protected] .

    There is some internal discussion about enhancing the website to further facilitate the public being able to discuss complaints about particular judges as sites such as the former and appear to have been shut down. Discussion on other sites suggests that those sites and others (such as The Psycho Ex Wife) were acted against by the courts to suppress free speech rights that are a threat to abusive, corrupt, and incompetent judges.

    Without a means to disclose complaints that are being made in good faith (i.e., are not made up with intent to defame) publicly, the public generally never hears about bad many judges are. As a result, many bad judges remain on the bench that have no business even being employable in the legal field considering what they have done. Most of them remain in their positions without even any opposition in elections, and therefore their “elections” do not happen as they do not appear on ballots and are simply given another term without the public having a right to vote. The public should have zero confidence in the judicial system given what is going on as common practice across the US.


  6. Sonja A Gossett
    November 19th, 2012 at 22:08 | #6

    @ Bill

    Hello, I need to speak with you immediately, please? I am in the middle of a horrible case in which I was granted a move away with my son once i completed co-parenting classes. I have followed everything that was told to me. Even though my ex does whatever he wants and doesn’t do anything but lie. This judge Mcbrien has just ordered my back to cali with my son and has granted the abusive ex to have full custody of my little boy. Please help with any information. He has physically abused my son and sexually abused me as well as threatened to come after us. I need urgent help. thank you.

  7. Sonja Alycea Gossett
    May 28th, 2014 at 16:06 | #7

    I too have had a family court issue and I am still battling. Total injustice. I need help, advice would be helpful. How do people protect themselves against bad attorneys and judges?

    @ Rob

  1. August 4th, 2010 at 09:23 | #1
  2. November 6th, 2010 at 19:17 | #2
  3. November 11th, 2010 at 23:17 | #3
  4. November 9th, 2011 at 00:18 | #4

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