A report on where
Philip Layfield’s Trial Postponed Again…Two Vacancies Remain on Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Real’s Death Brings Vacancies on District Court for Central District of California to Nine
Disciplinary charges have been brought by the Commission of Judicial Performance against Jeffrey Johnson, a justice of the Court of Appeal for this district’s Div. One. A public hearing before special masters is slated to commence on Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. at the office of the State Bar Court at 845 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles.
The 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.
The commission alleges that Johnson has “engaged in a pattern of conduct towards Justice Victoria Chaney” of his division “that was unwelcome, undignified, discourteous, and offensive, and that would reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment or as bias or prejudice based on gender,” uttered an inappropriate comment of a sexist nature to Justice Elizabeth Grimes of Div. Eight, and has otherwise persistently conducted himself in an improper manner toward female judges and attorneys.
He is also accused of appearing to be drunk in public.
On June 18, the CJP filed third amended charges, adding these counts:
Count 7D: At a law firm social event at a bowling alley, he is alleged to have told attorney Price Kent “that the human race was not meant to be monogamous” and “boasted to her” that he “had information about the sexual exploits of famous people, including President Barack Obama.” At a party at a restaurant later, he is said to have told Kent “could do a lot for her career and that she needed to come visit” him in his chambers. It charged that, without her consent, he reached under the table, put his hand on one of her knees, and slid his hand up her thigh.
Count 7E: At a meeting of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, he was seated by attorney Roberta Burnette. It is set forth that he “told Ms. Burnette that she was very voluptuous” and, when he learned she plays the viola, told Ms. Burnette that she could use her viola hand to stroke” his “big black dick.”
Count 7F: It is asserted that he made “inappropriate remarks” to attorney Taylor Wagniere and, on one occasion, “gave Ms. Wagniere an unwelcome, extended kiss on her lips, without her consent.”
In an answer filed June 24, Johnson said:
“Justice Johnson denies the allegations in that he does not have recall that these events occurred. He also denies that the allegations as described by the witnesses have been accurately recalled or may have been influenced by contact with persons who had a personal motive to unfairly discredit Justice Johnson or by electronic mass distribution of information which encouraged persons to negatively interpret past events. He further alleges that the prima facie conduct alleged does not involve conduct affecting any case or matter before the court and does not constitute a violation of the canons by judicial action, bad faith or corrupt intent.”
The document alleges that the commission “did not exercise due diligence in a timely manner in order to obtain the information in their possession by way of an anonymous letter that identified an attorney representing the letter writer,” declaring:
“This failure of due diligence deprived Justice Johnson of a fair ability to defend himself within the time parameters ordered by the Special Masters. For this reason, the allegations should be stricken as a violation of Justice Johnson’s right to due process of law, and as cumulative under the principles of California Evidence Code section 352.”.
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, 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 is scheduled for July 22.
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.
There are two vacancies on the 29-judge court.
Judge Alex Kozinski retired Dec. 18, 2017, in light of sexual misconduct allegations. The president on Feb. 6 nominated Daniel Aaron Bress, a partner in the District of Columbia office of Kirkland & Ellis, to take his seat. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted favorably on the nomination on June 20 over the opposition of California’s two Democratic senators.
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain went on senior status Dec. 31, 2016. No replacement has been named.
Circuit 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.
There are nine vacancies.
Judge Manuel Real, 95, assumed senior status on Nov. 4, 2018, after 52 years on the bench, and died Wednesday night.
Judge S. James Otero assumed senior status Dec. 30, 2018.
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. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld has been nominated to succeed her.
There are no vacancies.
There are no vacancies.
Serving as pro tems are Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Rashida A. Adams, Mark K. Hanasono, Ann I. Jones, Natalie P. Stone, and Gregory J. Weingart, along with retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman and Orange Superior Court Judge Kim Garlin Dunning.
Seats in other districts are filled.
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