Tuesday, April 23, 2002
State Bar Dismisses Discipline Probe of Its Executive Director
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar has dismissed a law professor’s claim that Executive Director Judy Johnson broke her promise to look into why an agreement to make changes to Board of Governors elections procedures was violated.
Johnson on Friday waived her right to confidentiality in the attorney discipline matter against her and asked that the April 10 letter to Boalt Hall School of Law Professor Stephen Barnett from special examiner Don Mike Anthony be made public.
“There is not a scintilla of evidence that Ms. Johnson committed an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption,” Anthony, an attorney with the Pasadena firm of Hahn & Hahn, wrote in the letter.
Barnett asked for a probe of Johnson in December, saying she failed to live up to her end of an agreement to settle a lawsuit he was preparing to bring against the State Bar.
In that aborted suit, San Jose lawyer Richard Alexander challenged the State Bar’s practice of denying candidates for the Board of Governors the opportunity to include position statements in the materials sent to each California attorney.
Representing Alexander, Barnett entered into a settlement under which the State Bar agreed to allow such statements, only to discover after the campaign season had begun last April that the changes had not yet been made and that candidate statements still had not been posted on the State Bar’s website.
The State Bar corrected the problem after Barnett complained. But Barnett said Johnson then promised to investigate why the agreement had not been followed. She never did, he charged.
“What has now been found to be baseless accusations were directed not only at my personal integrity, but also implicitly at how the State Bar elections are conducted,” Johnson said in her waiver of confidentiality.
Johnson, a California lawyer since 1976 and executive director of the State Bar since 2000, was not available yesterday for comment.
In his letter, Anthony noted that the State Bar quickly corrected its “mistakes” as soon as Barnett brought them to its attention. But Barnett said that was beside the point.
“My point was that Judy Johnson [was to] investigate how [the mistake] happened, and so far as it appears, she never did,” Barnett said.
Barnett declined to offer an opinion as to whether Johnson was treated better than other lawyers by the State Bar’s discipline system, explaining that he does not know how other lawyers are treated. But he added:
“I may have been naïve to expect a different outcome.”
Barnett has long been a critic of the State Bar and has recently targeted its elections for the Board of Governors, the panel that lawyers elect to represent them in the governance of the organization.
The same day Anthony wrote his letter to Barnett, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong rejected a lawsuit Barnett brought on behalf of Arizona attorney Louis Hoffman to win the right to vote in this year’s election for members of California’s State Bar Board of Governors.
Ruling from the bench after an hour of oral argument, Armstrong said Hoffman failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits and that the balance of hardships tips in favor of the State Bar.
Barnett confirmed yesterday that he and Hoffman would appeal.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company