Jeffrey Johnson, the Los Angeles appellate judge accused of harassing more than a dozen women co-workers, has denied most of the allegations leveled against him in a complaint made public by state disciplinarians last week.
In a 42-page answer filed with the Commission on Judicial Performance on Tuesday, lawyers for Johnson, an associate justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, said the jurist “accepts full responsibility for his conduct where it is clear he has faltered.” But they deny the most serious accusations, including a claim he groped a fellow justice and propositioned a member of his security detail for sex.
Johnson’s team of lawyers, which includes former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, said the justice answered questions on a polygraph exam about the allegations made by Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney and California Highway Patrol Officer Tatiana Sauquillo.
“He told the truth,” the lawyers wrote. “He passed.”
Chaney did not respond to a message sent Tuesday afternoon. Sauquillo’s attorney, Lisa Bloom of The Bloom Firm, said in a statement: “Officer Sauquillo stands by her allegations. The idea that Justice Johnson could not sexually harass her at a time when he was under stress is absurd. And as every judge should know, polygraph evidence is generally inadmissible in California as courts deem it unreliable.”
Johnson’s answer is his most expansive response yet to a disciplinary complaint that could, at worst, lead to his removal from office. He has put together a large legal team that includes Brown; Paul S. Meyer of the firm Paul S. Meyer; Reg Vitek of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek; and Thomas Warwick Jr. of Grimes & Warwick. Johnson appears ready to pursue a defense during a yet-unscheduled public hearing before special masters.
Meyer, who issued a denial of the charges on Johnson’s behalf last week, did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Johnson’s filing asked the commission to separate the nine counts of misconduct against him into two groups: the first involving the allegations made by Chaney and Sauquillo and the second including reports he made inappropriate comments to women and appeared drunk at several public venues.
Johnson said independent witnesses can repudiate some of Chaney’s allegations. Her continued friendly behavior toward him and her “failure” to complain about his behavior impeach her other accusations, Johnson’s lawyers claimed.
Johnson’s legal team also said that at the time when Sauquillo claims the judge acted inappropriately toward her, he and his family were dealing with an “all-consuming serious threat of violence.”
“The allegation that Justice Johnson made salacious comments to Officer Sauquillo while he was simultaneously engrossed in this threat to his family and working to resolve it with Officer Sauquillo’s colleagues is not credible,” Johnson’s filing said.
The remaining complaints are “less serious” and “appear to have been included for the sole purpose of bolstering the untrue and therefore unprovable claims of Justice Chaney and Officer Sauquillo,” Johnson’s lawyers wrote.
Johnson denied ever making some of the alleged sexually charged comments. In other instances, Johnson said his comments were taken out of context in the complaint. And on a few occasions, he said, some of his remarks may have been “misperceived” but were not intended to offend.
As for the accusations of drunk behavior, Johnson said he is a Type 2 diabetic and a drop in his blood sugar can cause weakness, speech problems and unsteadiness.
Justice Johnson’s answer is posted in full below: