Panel finds California judge harassed women at courthouse
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A state judicial panel found extensive testimony that a California Appeal Court judge sexually harassed numerous women at the courthouse, including a fellow judge whom he repeatedly groped and propositioned over nine years.
If the Commission on Judicial Performance upholds the panel’s findings, California Appeals Court Justice Jeffrey Johnson could be removed from the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
Johnson denied harassing, groping or propositioning any court colleagues or employees. His lawyer, Paul Meyer, said the panel had also found “credibility problems of a number of the accusing witnesses” that deserve further analysis.
The fact-finding panel, composed of an appellate justice and two Superior Court judges, said Friday that Johnson had committed 12 acts of “prejudicial misconduct” against 11 women from 2009 to 2018 and had also been drunk in public while presiding over a wedding and a reception for young attorneys.
“Justice Johnson’s pattern of conduct toward these women reflects ethical lapses that undermine the public’s trust in the judicial process,” the panel said.
The panel’s report followed 17 days of hearings with more than 100 witnesses, including Johnson. The commission will hear his case on March 18 in San Francisco.
Johnson, 59, was appointed to the court by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 after 10 years as a federal prosecutor and 10 years as a federal magistrate. He remains on the court, serving in the same division as his chief accuser, Justice Victoria Chaney.
Chaney, also a 2009 Schwarzenegger appointee, testified that Johnson first told her that he wanted to have an affair with her in 2010. She turned him down. Then a few months later, after she had gone through a difficult hearing, Johnson approached her and told her he wanted to kiss and squeeze her breasts to make her feel better, she said.
He then hugged her and touched one of her breasts, she said, an account that Johnson denied but the judicial panel found credible.