SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California agency tasked with disciplining judges has ordered an appellate court justice removed from office because of years of misconduct, including unwanted touching of women and undignified behavior.
The Commission on Judicial Performance said in a statement Tuesday that the misconduct of Jeffrey W. Johnson of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles was aggravated by his lack of candor throughout the proceedings. The panel said he should be removed for 18 acts of prejudicial misconduct involving more than 40 proven allegations.
“Treating women disrespectfully, including unwanted touching and making inappropriate sexual comments, reflects a sense of entitlement completely at odds with the canons of judicial ethics and the role of any judge,” the panel wrote in a 111-page decision and order.
An attorney for Johnson, 59, said they would ask the California Supreme Court to review the order given “the unprecedented decision” to remove a sitting judge who has never been disciplined and whose legal work is undisputed.
“Not one witness ever claimed him to be unfair in any case, or anything less than brilliant. The entire matter here involved non-judicial social conversations,” said Paul S. Meyer in a statement.
Johnson is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former federal prosecutor and federal judge who was tapped by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 to the California Court of Appeal.
The commission formally charged Johnson in January 2019.
It found that Johnson made inappropriate sexual comments to women, including soliciting a colleague, Justice Victoria Chaney, to have an affair, saying he wanted to squeeze her breasts and repeatedly touching her breasts. Johnson denied the allegations.
The panel also found he behaved inappropriately toward judicial assistants and a research attorney, telling them they looked good and soliciting personal relationships with them.
Gregory Dresser, director and chief counsel of the Commission on Judicial Performance, said the decision is final in 30 days, at which point Johnson has 60 days to request the California Supreme Court for review.