Friday, October 26, 2001
CJP to Name Independent Counsel to Probe Charge Against Henley
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The Commission on Judicial Performance will retain an independent examiner to investigate the conflict-of-interest charges brought against commission Director-Chief Counsel Victoria Henley, the commission’s chairman said yesterday.
“As an independent state agency that handles complaints about California’s judicial officers for judicial misconduct or wrongdoing, we have a responsibility to uphold the highest standards in our investigation and deliberation of judicial misconduct,” San Francisco attorney Michael Kahn said in a statement.
“The Commission has determined to thoroughly investigate the allegations of conflict of interest,” he continued. “We remain committed to maintaining the high standards expected of our process in order to preserve public confidence in the judiciary.”
Call With Geragos
The decision to engage an outside lawyer, sources said, grew out of Wednesday’s conference call to deal with revelations by Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos that Henley’s husband is representing the plaintiffs in a malpractice suit against Geragos’ client, former Sonoma Superior Court Judge Patricia Gray.
Gray has been charged by the commission with violating the ethical prohibitions against discussion of pending cases and appearing to advocate a position on a case, in connection with mailers attacking her opponent in last year’s elections. Gray lost the closely contested race to Elliot Daum, a former deputy public defender.
In letters to the commission earlier this week, Geragos urged that the charges against Gray be dismissed. The judge’s chances of a fair disposition have been irremediably prejudiced, he said, not only because Henley failed to disclose she is married to Michael L. Boli, but because the couple may have used the proceeding against Gray to gain leverage in the malpractice action.
Geragos commented yesterday that while he is known to be “not too keen on the idea of independent counsel, in this case I’ll reserve judgment until I find out who the person is.”
Geragos two years ago successfully represented Susan McDougal, a friend of former President Bill Clinton, on obstruction-of-justices charges brought by Kenneth Starr under the since-expired federal independent counsel statute.
A panel of three superior court judges named as special masters by the state Supreme Court was to convene in San Francisco Nov. 6 to hear evidence on the charges against Gray.
But the commission decided Wednesday to continue the hearing to an undetermined date.
Boli, whose full legal name is Louis Alexander Boli IV—the name listed on records describing property he and Henley own as husband and wife—told the MetNews that he did not become aware of the CJP accusations against Gray until they were made public last December. That was 16 months after he sued Gray, who practiced law in Santa Rosa before her 1994 election to the bench.
He declined to discuss when Henley became aware of the malpractice suit, citing advice of counsel, and would not comment on remarks attributed to him by a San Francisco newspaper, which quoted him on its website Wednesday as saying that he told her about the suit in early 2000.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company