The legal woes of California appeals court judge Jeffrey Johnson just keep on coming. And I, for one, am pleased to see it.
For those who need a refresher on which judge accused of sexual harassment Johnson actually is, I’ll hit the high(low?)lights. The disciplinary action details 20 years’ worth of alleged harassing behavior. He’s alleged to have groped a fellow judge, commented on the rear end of another, made sexual advances to multiple police officers assigned to work with him over the years, and “engaged in a pattern of poor demeanor towards colleagues and court employees.” All of which paint a picture of an entitled judge who was somehow allowed to harass the women in his professional orbit for decades and who believed his position insulated him from the consequences of his behavior.
A new lawsuit (available below) filed by Trisha Velez, judicial assistant at the Second District Court of Appeal in California, contains allegations Johnson subjected her to five years of harassment. The plaintiff was one of dozens of people — including attorneys, court employees, and security officers — who came forward to the Commission on Judicial Performance investigators with allegations against Johnson.
The alleged behavior by Johnson detailed in the complaint included questions about Velez’s sexual history and allegedly telling her, “If I was married to you, I would never leave your bed. I like you, Trish.” Gross.
As part of his plea to keep his job, last month Johnson took responsibility for some of his actions, but also said he didn’t know his behavior was unwelcomed, as reported by Law.com:
“Although the masters credit his willingness to reform and good faith actions, the absence of notice of any problem denied him the chance to respond if so informed,” his attorneys told the commissioners.
Johnson’s attorneys also accused prosecutors of “piling on” less serious allegations, including intoxication and poor demeanor, “to bolster a private non-judicial conduct matter.” Johnson has argued that his diabetes-related low blood sugar has caused symptoms that can mimic drunkenness. Accusations about his demeanor do not amount to “egregious” behavior, the lawyers wrote.
This is the second complaint filed against Johnson about his alleged behavior. A former security agent for Johnson, Tatiana Sauquillo, sued the judge and the court in 2019.
There are hearings scheduled for next week by the Commission on Judicial Performance on the allegations against Johnson. Potential penalties against the judge include removal from the bench.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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