A Trinity County judge has agreed to resign this week as part of a settlement to resolve disciplinary allegations that she lied to state investigators and regularly showed up late to work.
Superior Court Judge Elizabeth W. Johnson was publicly admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance. She will leave office on Jan. 18 and has agreed to never run for judge again, according to a commission order released Tuesday.
In a letter made public to Trinity County residents last month, Johnson said that while “a number of allegations” made against her to the commission are false, “the repeated process of responding to these complaints has affected both the court staff and my family, causing stress and uncertainty.”
“I have decided not to contest certain allegations and agree to resign,” she wrote. “This is so voters can make a reasoned and informed choice about who should be their next judge without distractions about me.”
Elected to the two-judge Trinity court in 2012, Johnson was accused of lying about payments on a 2007 loan she and her husband received to operate a golf course. During a 2014 commission investigation, Johnson told disciplinary staff she had made regular payments on the loan despite losing the business. In reality, the couple did not make any payments on the loan between August 2013 and November 2015, according to the commission.
Johnson also improperly used a court credit card on 14 occasions over an 18-month period for unauthorized expenses such as travel to a judicial conference and staff lunches, the commission alleged. The judge reimbursed the charges when she learned they did not comply with court guidelines.
The commission said Johnson arrived late for her courthouse calendar at least 42 times between January 2013 and August 2015. The judge also faced scrutiny for revising the court’s local rules without going through mandated public notice requirements and for failing to disclose that an attorney she appointed in a conservatorship proceeding was her former law firm partner.
“The totality of the judge’s misconduct … reflects a pattern of failure or inability to abide by basic rules and ethical standards required of all judges,” the commission wrote.
The commission disclosed in its order that it had sent Johnson a private advisory letter in 2014 for failing to disclose in cases involving Trinity County as a party that her family business had an outstanding loan from the county.
The CJP’s public admonition of Judge Elizabeth W. Johnson is posted below: