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Humboldt Co. judge faces investigation into 19 counts of alleged misconduct

A bald man wearing black judges robes and a green tie, He is smiling at the camera with a blurry courtroom in the background
Gregory Kreis
Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Gregory Kreis, under investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance

A Superior Court judge in Humboldt County is facing a formal investigation into alleged misconduct over the past decade. The investigation comes as the judge is running for re-election.

Judge Gregory Kreis faces 19 counts of alleged misconduct, including sexual harassment, anti-semetic remarks and cocaine use. Kreis has been a judge in Humboldt County Superior Court since 2017 and is up for re-election in March.

Some of the allegations stem from a lawsuit filed in 2020 by former Deputy Public Defender Rory Kalin. Kalin accused the judge of harassing him during a Memorial Day celebration in 2019, calling him anti-semetic slurs and pushing him off a boat. That lawsuit was settled out of court last month.

The state investigation, announced by the Commission on Judicial Performance on Wednesday, includes additional allegations that weren’t in the original lawsuit.

The reason for the commission’s investigation remains confidential. It can review complaints about judges submitted by anyone, even anonymously, and complaints remain confidential. But, the commission can also begin investigations through other means, such as if an incident was made public through a news story.

The notice of formal proceedings includes 19 alleged counts, ranging from failing to disclose personal relationships, inappropriate drug and alcohol use and sexual harassment.

One charge accuses Kreis of frequently using cocaine before becoming a judge in 2017, “On one occasion, in approximately October 2015, you drove two attorneys to a house in Humboldt Hill for the purpose of purchasing cocaine,” it reads. “On the return trip, you used cocaine while driving.”

Kreis denies the allegations. In an emailed statement sent Thursday, he said, “It’s not surprising that these salacious and false allegations, some of them over a decade old, are being made in a highly public way the same week ballots are out in a campaign for re-election.”

Kreis is running for re-election against challenger April Van Dyke, a Eureka-based lawyer who represents indigent clients. Ballots are due by March 5.

Kries has until Feb. 22 to respond to the investigation. If the commission determines any of the charges are true, Kreis could face punishment including censure, public reprimand or removal from the bench entirely.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.