LOS ANGELES – Second District Court of Appeal Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson is under investigation for numerous claims of sexual harassment in the workplace and being drunk in public, a judicial watchdog agency announced Monday.
Johnson is charged with nine counts of misconduct in the 17-page complaint issued by the state Commission on Judicial Performance. If found guilty of the allegations, the Los Angeles-based justice could face expulsion.
Some of the claims date back to when Johnson was a federal magistrate, before he was appointed as an appellate justice for the state courts in August 2009.
Johnson denied all of the allegations through his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, who issued a statement saying that his client will “present sworn declarations of counsel, court personnel and confirmed interviews of supervising justices and judicial colleagues in his defense” at a trial.
Meyer added that his client “unequivocally passed forensic lie detector testing focused on the most serious allegations,” including groping of one woman’s breast. The attorney said he would produce “writings and other communications of the named offended parties which contradict and discredit the claims.”
Referring to an email that was accidentally sent to numerous court officials about the claims, Meyer said, “Justice Johnson remains committed to the process even in the face of irresponsible and unsubstantiated emails sent by a judicial officer to thousands of court personnel containing erroneous information.”
Johnson is accused of harassing fellow Second District Court of Appeal Justice Victoria Chaney. The complaint recounts how he allegedly got drunk and refused to leave her hotel room after they dined together while attending a “judicial college for appellate justices in Reno, Nevada,” in early 2010, and alleges that he told Chaney that he wanted to have an affair with her.
Also in 2010, after he encountered Chaney in a hallway of the courthouse and she mentioned she had “just finished a particularly difficult hearing,” Johnson replied, “Well, I should kiss and squeeze your titties to make you feel better,” according to the complaint. He then allegedly groped one of her breasts.
From 2010 through 2018, he is accused of “repeatedly hugging” Chaney and groping her chest, the complaint alleges. He is also accused of patting her on the buttocks at the courthouse on numerous occasions.
Johnson, who is black, is also accused of making lewd comments regarding sexual stereotypes about black men to Chaney and another woman.
In December 2013, during a holiday party with co-workers, Johnson allegedly made a “sexually explicit comment” to Chaney as he “squeezed her against” him and said, “It can’t be sexual harassment because we’re both on the same level,” the complaint alleges.
Two female California Highway Patrol officers, who were assigned to protect Johnson, allege he made sexually charged comments to them, as well. In one case, he allegedly put his hand on the thigh of one of the officers while she was driving him somewhere.
One of the officers alleges he asked her to pull the car over so he could have sex with her.
Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents one of the CHP officers, Tatiana Sauquillo, said her client alleges Johnson “sexually propositioned her, physically touched against her will and sexually harassed her.”
“No one, not even an appellate judge, is above the law,” Bloom said. “It is the duty of everyone, especially an appellate judge, to uphold women’s rights to a respectful workplace.”
Andrea Blatchford, an appellate court attorney who began working for Johnson in about February of last year, was “sharply criticized” by the justice during a phone call the following month, and when she went to talk to him about it, he asked her to hug him, so she did, according to the complaint.
Last spring, he also allegedly asked her personal questions about where she had tattoos and about her boyfriend.
Johnson asked her if she had ever dated a black man, and when she said she had, he allegedly responded, “I guess you went back then,” an apparent reference to a racist joke about black men, according to the complaint.
During a discussion last May about events related to porn actress Stormy Daniels’ alleged affair with President Donald Trump, Johnson commented that it sounded like the two had “pedestrian sex” and then called up a photo of another of Trump’s accusers and noted that she was “beautiful,” the complaint alleges.
Other women attorneys said he made sexually suggestive comments to them, as well, and about eight years ago, he allegedly told fellow Justice Elizabeth Grimes that she has “the greatest ass in the Second District,” the complaint alleges.
Attorney Melanie Palmer alleged that Johnson made sexually suggestive comments about her body, according to the complaint. She said she met Johnson at a party shortly after she passed the State Bar exam in June 2013, and he offered to mentor her.
Attorney Allison Schulman alleged that in June 2015, he “stroked” her arm and “repeatedly grabbed her around her stomach and waist” during a reception at an attorneys’ event. He also allegedly kiss her three times on the cheek, the complaint alleges.
In September 2015, he pestered Schulman to sit next to him at an event in Las Vegas and said he would refer a case to her if she sat next to him, according to the complaint.
While he was a magistrate judge in federal court from 2004 through 2008, he allegedly made comments about breast augmentation to two court clerks, the complaint alleges. One of the clerks alleged that when she was upset about something, he said, “Is it your time of the month?,” according to the complaint.
Other allegations include behavior associated with drinking in public and hollering at underlings at work.