Former Trinity County Superior Court Judge Admonished by Calif. Judicial Performance Commission

Former Trinity County, California Superior Court
Judge Elizabeth Johnson. |   

January 17, 2018 | 

Yesterday the California Judicial Performance formally admonished a former Trinity County Superior Court Judge who had submitted a resignation letter in December.

The commission issued a decision and order ordering a decision and order imposing public admonishment on Judge Elizabeth W. Johnson pursuant to a stipulation agreement.  

As part of the stipulation, Judge Johnson agreed to resign from the bench effective January 18, 2018, and not to seek or hold judicial office in the future. Judge Johnson was issued a public admonishment by the commission for the following misconduct. 

The commission found Judge Johnson made a material misrepresentation during a prior investigation. Specifically, in March 2014, Judge Johnson represented that she and her husband continued to make payments on a Community Development Block Grant loan from Trinity County. 

In fact, they stopped making payments on the loan after August 2013, and did not make another payment for more than two years. On fourteen separate occasions, Judge Johnson improperly used her court credit card in violation of Judicial Council policies, including for personal purposes unrelated to court business. The fourteen charges totaled $740.22. 

Also, Judge Johnson frequently arrived to court after the calendar over which she presided was scheduled to start, including arriving 30 minutes later for her calendar on three occasions. Judge Johnson’s tardiness inconvenienced parties, attorneys, and court personnel. 

On two separate occasions, contrary to the provisions of the California Rules of Court, Judge Johnson revised the Trinity County Superior Court local rules without providing the public and local legal community with notice of, and an opportunity to comment on, the rule changes. In addition, in an August 2015 minute order, Judge Johnson appointed her former law partner to represent a conservatee in a matter pending before her. 

In imposing the public admonishment, the commission stated that Judge Johnson’s multiple acts of misconduct undermine public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and that Judge Johnson’s misrepresentation to the commission is particularly serious misconduct. The commission further commented that the judge’s misconduct “reflects a pattern or inability to abide by basic rules and ethical standards required of all judges.” 

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