A Los Angeles-based court of appeal justice will face a legal tribunal Monday on charges that he sexually harassed another justice, court staff and state security officers and appeared in public intoxicated, a newspaper reported.
Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who was appointed to the appeals court by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has denied the most serious charges brought by at least 17 women, some of whom said he touched them without their consent. His lawyers said he has taken and passed a polygraph test, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday morning.
The judicial discipline case is highly unusual for a judge of Johnson’s position. The Commission on Judicial Performance, the independent state agency that will hear the charges against Johnson, has brought formal proceedings against only two other appellate justices since 1960.
If the charges are found to be true, Johnson could face removal from the bench. Two lawsuits have already been filed stemming from the sexual harassment allegations.
Johnson sued the 2nd District Court of Appeal, where he serves, and Presiding Administrative Justice Elwood Lui. The suit says that Lui revealed a sexual harassment complaint by a California Highway Patrol officer against Johnson in an email sent to more than 10,000 court personnel, according to The Times.
Johnson contends that Lui, who was investigating the allegation, violated his privacy rights and that the mass email encouraged many of the women now alleging sexual harassment to view past interactions with him in a negative light. The suit seeks $10 million in compensation.
The CHP officer whose complaint Lui was reviewing also has sued Johnson and the CHP for sexual harassment.
Some of the most serious allegations against Johnson have been made by Justice Victoria Chaney, also a Schwarzenegger appointee who sits on the same court with Johnson. She has alleged that he sexually harassed her from 2009 to 2018.
On one occasion in 2010, Chaney said she ran into Johnson in a court hallway and told him she had just come from a difficult hearing. Chaney, who agreed to have her identity made public, said Johnson squeezed one of her breasts during the encounter, The Times reported. She also said Johnson repeatedly asked her to have an affair, hugged her and touched her bottom and breasts when they met and made inappropriate comments.
Johnson denied making the comment about her breasts and said he never intentionally or inappropriately touched her.
The CHP officer who sued Johnson said he propositioned her for sex when she was required to drive him, a charge Johnson denied. Another CHP officer said he repeatedly tried to get her into his house when no one was at home.
A lawyer said Johnson put his hand on her knee at a dinner and slid it up to her thigh. Another lawyer said he gave her an unwelcome and extended kiss on the lips. A third lawyer said he sent her sexually suggestive texts after meeting her at a private party.
The charges date back to 2004, when Johnson was a federal magistrate. A court clerk said Johnson asked her back then if she had a breast augmentation and wanted to know if he could touch her breasts, The Times reported.
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