California Justice Removed From Bench for Sexual Harassment

In a first, the California Commission on Judicial Performance has removed an appeals court justice, citing a history of sexual harassment involving multiple victims. Justice Jeffrey Johnson becomes the first appellate judge in California history to be removed from the bench, although he can appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.

The 111 page decision, released today, can be accessed here. This investigation has been going on since July, 2018. The commission, which included one appeals justice, one trial judge, and seven other members, found that Justice Johnson committed 18 acts of prejudicial misconduct. “The charges involve sexual misconduct toward 17 women he encountered at the courts where he worked”. The charges also involved “multiple instances of undignified conduct while under the influence of alcohol”.

Among other things, a witness and fellow Court of Appeal justice, the Hon. Victoria Cheney, testified that Justice Johnson was worried that he would not be appointed a justice in the first place because, he said, a “Black man is very powerful and people are ‘afraid of the size of a Black Man’s penis or ‘cock’ or ‘dick’” and that “Black men can pleasure women or something on that order”.

Justice Johnson became a federal magistrate judge in 1999 and later was appointed to the Second Appellate District, Division One. As a lawyer, he was an assistant United States Attorney.