During a disciplinary hearing Tuesday, an attorney called a Los Angeles-based state appeals court judge a “bully” with a long history of making unwanted advances toward women.
The judge’s attorney, however, called the accusations a series of “mischaracterizations.”
Jeffrey W. Johnson, a judge with the Second District Court of Appeal, faces 10 counts of misconduct, most notably sexual harassment. The state Commission on Judicial Performance could remove him from the bench as a result.
According to commission documents, Johnson, 58, allegedly engaged in a “pattern of conduct toward subjects that was unwelcome, undignified, discourteous and offensive …”
The behavior “would reasonably be perceived as sexual harassment or as bias or prejudice based on gender” the commission said.
Other charges against Johnson include:
- patterns of poor demeanor towards colleagues and court employees,
- patterns of conduct toward other attorneys that demeaned the judicial office,
- acting undignified and discourteous, and
- appearing to be under the influence of alcohol.
The alleged offenses took place between 2009 and 2018.
During closing arguments of the hearing in San Diego, commission staff attorney Emma Bradford told a three-judge panel that Johnson violated the judicial code of ethics.
He did so, she argued, by making lurid statements to women and touching some of them inappropriately. The alleged victims include a fellow judge on the Second District Court of Appeal.
Bradford described Johnson as a “bully who preyed for years on women, lied about it for years and denied responsibility for his actions.”
According to Bradford, Johnson put his hand on one woman’s thigh while she was driving. He said to another, “If I had been your husband, I would have never left your bed.”
“These women deserve a safe workplace,” Bradford said. She added that they shouldn’t have to “hide behind their computer or cry in the bathroom.”
She said the women who accused Johnson did not know each other. While Johnson may claim the women lied, “the weight of evidence says otherwise.”
Johnson’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, called the case against the judge “80 percent mischaracterization and miscalculation.” He described his client as a flawed man who overcame numerous obstacles to succeed. He also devoted time to helping others.
“We’re asking you to put the cartoon (image) of Justice Johnson aside,” Meyer said.
Meyer said if Johnson had sought a romantic relationship with any of his accusers, he would be the “most unsuccessful pursuer in judicial history,” because he never took the next step.
At one point as Meyers spoke, Johnson appeared to become emotional, using a napkin to wipe his eyes.
Meyers said that because Johnson suffers from diabetes, people may have confused his disorientation with intoxication.
During a previous hearing, Meyer said a female judge helped target Johnson in a “whisper campaign.”
At the hearing’s conclusion, the three-judge panel will prepare a report and present it to the Commission on Judicial Performance. Both sides may respond to the report before the commission renders a final decision.
– City News Service
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