August 30,
2019

A report on where
things
stand



Justice Johnson’s CJP Hearing Nears Conclusion…Trump Nominates Oregon Judge To Sole Vacancy on Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nominates Three to Sit
On District Court for Central District of California



Judges, Lawyers Under Scrutiny


Jeffrey Johnson
Court of Appeal Justice

A hearing before three masters on alleged sexual harassment charges brought by the Commission of Judicial Performance against Court of Appeal Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson of this district’s Div. One began Aug. 5 and continues Monday with rebuttal witnesses.
The special masters are Court of Appeal Justice Judith L. Haller of the Fourth District’s Div. One, San Diego Superior Court Judge Louis R. Hanoian, and Imperial Superior Court Judge William D. Lehman.

A parade of female witnesses—lawyers, a California Highway Patrol officer, Court of Appeal Justices Victoria Chaney and Elizabeth Grimes, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Wendy Segall—provided accounts of Johnson’s conduct which included allegations of his seeking sex, touching them inappropriately, and uttering improper remarks. There was also testimony as to flares of temper on Johnson’s part and alcohol abuse.

The immediate past presiding justice of Div. One, Robert Mallano, told of his obliviousness as to any misbehavior on Johnson’s part and said that if he had known of any problem, he would have acted to cure it. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie testified, but did not reveal first-hand knowledge of any transgression.

In testimony on Aug. 22, Johnson acknowledged that “[s]ome of the witnesses were telling the truth,” but added:
“Some were telling most of the truth, but some important details were incorrect. Some of the witnesses were outright lying.”

He related that since the charges against him surfaced, he has been in therapy, and now realizes that some sorts of remarks he thought were acceptable aren’t.

The commission has charged Johnson “with willful misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, and improper action within the meaning of article VI, section 18 of the California Constitution providing for removal, censure, or public or private admonishment of a judge.”

Should the commission, following receipt of the masters’ report, opt to order removal of Johnson, the jurist could seek state Supreme Court review. No appellate court jurist since the commission came into existence in 1961 has faced the prospect of an ouster for misconduct.

(California Supreme Court Marshall F. McComb, after a 50-year judicial career, was removed in 1977 by a makeshift Supreme Court panel—comprised of Court of Appeal justices, sitting pro tem—but not stemming from misconduct; the aged jurist displayed signs of senility.)

If Johnson is not ejected by action of the Judicial Branch, he would still face the prospect of being ousted by the Legislature under dormant powers. State constitutional procedures for impeachment and removal, predating creation of the commission, remain.

Philip James Layfield
Disbarred Attorney, Accused Felon, Truck Driver

Layfield has been released on bail and is presently residing in Delaware. He is facing trial in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on charges of mail fraud and money laundering,

Trial was initially set for May 15, 2018, was continued to Aug. 14, 2018, was set for Feb. 26, 2019, then put off to Sept. 10. On June 1, a stipulation was filed postponing trial to Jan. 21, 2020, which was approved June 3 by Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.

On June 18, Layfield filed a motion to quash grand jury subpoenas seeking testimony and documents from Layfield’s father, who assisted his son in preparing 2016 tax returns, arguing that the object is not pursuant to the grand jury’s investigative function, but to secure pre-trial discovery. The motion seeks to block further grand jury subpoenas in connection with alleged tax violations and to suppress evidence already obtained. A hearing on the motion was held Aug. 2.

The prosecution began in connection with Layfield pocketing settlement funds belonging to Josephine Nguyen, who was a client of the erstwhile law firm of Layfield & Barrett. She was to receive 60 percent of a $3.9 million settlement of her personal injury claim, amounting to $2.3 million.

A superseding indictment expanded the scope of the prosecution to include tax evasion and fraud for 2016 and 2017.
The defendant, apprehended in New Jersey in March, 2018, and incarcerated until August of last year, had previously fled to Costa Rica.

Attorney Anthony M. Solis, on Aug. 17, 2018, filed an emergency motion for an order modifying the terms of Layfield’s release to permit him to leave his residence to attend classes, paving the way for him to obtain a commercial driver’s license so he could seek employment as a truck driver. The motion was granted and he completed a seven-week course. On Oct. 16, District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald of the Central District of California granted a motion permitting him to accept employment with a trucking company.

Layfield was suspended from law practice by the State Bar of California after he failed to show up for his Jan. 24, 2018 disciplinary hearing. The State Bar Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed disciplinary charges against him on Sept. 20, 2017, alleging that the attorney misappropriated more than $3.4 million from his clients. He was disbarred Oct. 27, 2018.

Layfield acknowledges moving funds from the attorney-client trust account to his erstwhile firm’s general fund, but insists he thought there was enough money in the coffers to cover the clients’ shares of settlements. He ascribes blame to others, including the State Bar prosecutor.


Judiciary: Vacancies, Appointments





Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

There is one vacancy on the 29-judge court, but two are upcoming.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Judge Danielle Hunsaker, of Oregon’s Washington County Circuit Court, to replace Judge Diarmuid     O’Scannlain, who went on senior status Dec. 31, 2016.

Judge Carlos Bea has said through a court spokesperson that he will take “senior status upon the nomination, confirmation and appointment of his successor.” Mentioned as a possible successor is Patrick J. Bumatay, an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of California and presently a nominee to the U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California. Trump previously nominated him to the Ninth Circuit but Senate action was not taken.

Judge Jay S. Bybee has announced will go on senior status Dec. 31.

 

There are nine vacancies and, of Wednesday, three nominees: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, Orange Superior Court Judge Sandy Leal, and Rick Richmond, a partner at the Los Angeles office of Jenner & Block.  

The latest was created July 5 when Judge Andrew J. Guilford went on senior status.

Judge S. James Otero assumed senior status Dec. 30, 2018.

Judge Manuel Real, 95, assumed senior status on Nov. 4, 2018, after 52 years on the bench, and died June 26, 2019.

Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell died Oct. 8, 2017, at the age of 52.

Judge George H. King retired Jan. 6, 2017. Trump has nominated Mark C. Scarsi of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy to take King’s seat.

Judge Christina A. Snyder took senior status Nov. 23, 2016.

Judge Dean Pregerson took senior status Jan. 28, 2016.

Judge Margaret Morrow took senior status Oct. 29, 2015, and subsequently left the bench to become president and chief executive of Public Counsel. The president has named Jeremy B. Rosen of Horvitz & Levy to replace Morrow.

Judge Audrey B. Collins resigned Aug. 1, 2014 to join the state Court of Appeal for this district. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld has been nominated to succeed her.



There are no vacancies.

Second District

There are no vacancies.

Serving as pro tems through the end of September are Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Mark K. Hanasono and Natalie P. Stone. Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman and retired Orange Superior Court Judge Kim Garlin Dunning remain on assignment until they finish work on cases.

 Seats in other districts are filled.


Los Angeles County
 

There have been these retirements:

Judge Dan Oki, Jan. 31.

Judge Marvin M. Lager Jr., April 5;

Judge Susan Speer, June 21.

Judge Margaret Henry, June 29.

Judge Bert Glennon, July 1.

On Dec. 18, Judge Thomas Trent Lewis will retire. It was announced earlier this month that he would be replaced on Nov. 1 as supervising judge of the Family Law Division by Judge Lawrence P. Riff, who was then the assistant supervising judge, and that Judge Shelley L. Kaufman would become assistant supervising judge. However, Lewis has gone on sick leave and Riff and Kaufman have assumed their new posts.

A vacancy will be created if Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha is confirmed as a judge of the U.S. District Court.



 

 

 


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