The inquiry into misconduct charges against Second District Court of Appeal Justice Jeffrey Johnson, who is accused of groping a fellow judge and harassing more than a dozen women, will be held in August in Los Angeles, the Commission on Judicial Performance said Friday.
Justice Judith Haller of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Imperial County Superior Court Judge William Lehman and San Diego County Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian will serve as special masters in what is expected to be a lengthy inquiry into the nine counts of misconduct filed against Johnson. The proceedings are slated to begin Aug. 5 at the State Bar court.
The panel will hear witness testimony, review exhibits and issue a report on its findings to the commission, which will decide what punishment, if any, should be leveled against Johnson. Discipline against judges can range from a private advisory letter to removal from office.
Commission staff attorney Emma Bradford will lead the examination. Johnson is represented by Paul S. Meyer of the firm Paul S. Meyer; Reg Vitek of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek; Thomas Warwick Jr. of Grimes & Warwick; and Willie Brown, an attorney and former mayor of San Francisco.
Hanoian and Lehman recently served as special masters in the misconduct case against retired El Dorado County Judge Steven Bailey. The commission last month censured Bailey and barred him from serving again as a state judge.
Johnson, responding in January to the misconduct claims, said he “accepts full responsibility for his conduct where it is clear he has faltered.” But he denied grabbing a fellow justice’s breasts and soliciting a security officer for sex. He also rejected charges—expanded in a recently amended complaint—that he has appeared drunk in public. Johnson said he is diabetic and can experience symptoms that mimic intoxication.
The case will unfold as judiciary leaders consider new sexual harassment policies for the state’s courts.
A working group appointed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is scheduled to release recommendations later this year that may include a new court rule that would clarify courts’ responsibilities for handling courthouse reports of harassment and providing training.
Where court employees should file complaints “has been at the forefront of our considerations,” working group member Harry Hull, a Third District Court of Appeal justice, told the Judicial Council on Friday. He continued: “A number of the anonymous comments that we received when we solicit them included the concern, if not the complaint, that people didn’t know who to report to, especially if the allegation involved the presiding judge or justice.”