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Santa Barbara judge says she didn't know gift was illegal

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) -- A Santa Barbara County judge told a California ethics panel she didn't know her then-girlfriend's $20,000 donation to her campaign was improper.

Superior Court Judge Diana R. Hall testified Monday she accepted the gift from Diedre Dykeman for her 2002 re-election campaign.

Hall said it never dawned on her that she could not accept the money "from someone I shared expenses with and lived with."

Hall added, "I easily could have gotten the money from other sources and we wouldn't be here today."

Hall said she viewed the money as a community asset and therefore didn't see the need to report it as a contribution from Dykeman.

Hall's testimony came during a rehearing of Commission on Judicial Performance ethics violation charges against her. The earlier hearing, also at the Court of Appeal in Ventura, ended when the commission dismissed the disciplinary panel because of alleged impropriety by a panelist.

There were allegations during the November hearing that Monterey County Superior Court Judge Michael S. Fields improperly criticized Hall outside of the hearing.

Three new special masters selected by the California Supreme Court began another hearing on Monday.

Hall, 56, hears civil cases in Santa Maria. She is accused of violating the Code of Judicial Ethics by failing to report the $20,000 contribution from her former live-in girlfriend for her campaign.

The charge arose from a 2003 criminal trial in which Hall was accused of brandishing a gun during a domestic dispute with Dykeman. The judge was not convicted on that charge and other serious counts, but a jury found her guilty of drunken driving.

Besides campaign finance charges, the commission's three-count complaint accuses Hall of violating judicial ethics by driving drunk and berating a prosecutor for filing a peremptory challenge against her in 2001. Hall has admitted to the drunken-driving-related ethics violations.

The judge faces removal, censure or public or private admonishment.

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