May 31, 2011
State Bar of California
1149 South Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Attention: INTAKE OFFICE
Re: Complaint for Ethical Violations Against the State Bar of California; Lawrence Yee - #84208; Rachel Grunberg - #197080; Judy Johnson - #71360 ; Mark Torres-Gil - #91597.
In lieu of submitting a complaint form, I submit this letter and enclosed materials as a formal complaint against the above-named attorneys for grave misconduct that took place in handling matters relating to applicant Sara Granda and the case of Granda v. State Bar of California.
As will be shown, the above parties, together and individually, engaged in egregious misconduct by conspiring and failing to disclose to the plaintiff the existence of a close relationship between the State Bar of California, CaliforniaALL, State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson,Patricia Lee, and the judge who presided over a case (Hon. Morrison C. England) in which the State Bar of California was named as the sole defendant.
Furthermore, misconduct in the form of misrepresentations to the court took place regarding the current state of the law; further misconduct resulted from the discrimination against against the plaintiff based on her disability, and the unwillingness to comply with the ADA by affording the plaintiff reasonable accommodations. In addition, and adding insult to injury, the State Bar of California used the California Bar Journal as a tool to further injure and harass Granda by publishing an incomplete and inaccurate article which asserted that the State Bar had sought the advice of the California Supreme Court in determining how to resolve Granda's claims. The article failed to mention that, in actuality, Granda had filed an action with the California Supreme Court for a preemptive writ and a writ of mandamus, such that the article misled readers regarding the actual circumstances surrounding Granda's claims.
The Honorable Judge Morrison C. England is a United States District Court judge for the Eastern District of California who sits in Sacramento. Prior to assuming the role of federal judge, he served as a judge with the Sacramento County Superior Court. Judge England is a graduate of McGeorge School of Law, also located in Sacramento.
In approximately 2005, as part of his community involvement and extra-judicial activities, Judge England became involved in programs initiated by Elizabeth Parker, dean of McGeorge, and Sarah Redfield, a visiting professor from New Hampshire, relating to the promotion of diversity within the legal profession. Ruthe Catolico Ashley, an assistant dean at the career office at McGeorge School of Law who later assumed a position as a Diversity Officer at CalPERS, was also involved in these activities.
The diversity initiatives instigated by McGeorge were both local and national in scope. The local program in Sacramento was entitled "PacificPathways.” The program to promote diversity on a national level became known as "Wingspread," which evolved into a series, including Wingspread – Blackboard, Bench, and Bar and Wingspread – Delivered and Deliverable, and the like. Torie L. Flournoy, a school principal from Sacramento, was also involved in these programs at the local level.
Because Ruthe Ashley also served on the Board of Governors of the State Bar of California and Sarah Redfield served on the State Bar's Council on Fairness and Access, the parties from Sacramento (namely, Parker, Ahley, Flournoy, Redfield and Judge England) became acquainted with individuals from the State Bar of California who were involved in matters relating to diversity, including Executive Director Judy Johnson, State Bar employee Patricia Lee, and Buchalter Nemer's Holly Fujie.
As such, it was common to observe the same participant names at various diversity-related events taking place around the country. For example, over a 3 day weekend in Monterrey on October 5-7, 2006, part of the Wingspread program ran concurrently with the State Bar of California's annual convention. Some of the attendees included Judy Johnson, Holly Fujie, Patricia Lee, Ruthe Ashley, Torie L. Flournoy, Hon. Morrison C. England, Dean Elizabeth Parker, and Sarah Redfield. (See attachment titled "Wingspread VI.") This event, Wingspread -- Blackboard Bench and Bar, was organized by Sarah Redfield. Similarly, in June 2007, and also part of the "Wingspread" series, a summit was held in Honolulu, Hawaii at which Dean Elizabeth Parker, Hon. Morrison C. England, Sarah Redfield and Torie L. Flournoy were all in attendance. (See attachment titled "UH Manoh Law School.")
In approximately 2007, Ruthe Ashley and Munger Tolles & Olson's Jeffrey Bleich served as Vice President and President of the California State Bar, respectively. During that time frame, an idea was formulated to replicate an existing entity that would also absorb large sums of money from utility companies, and which would be used to allegedly promote diversity.
The original entity, the California Consumer Protection Foundation (CCPF), was secretly controlled for years by State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson. Fines and settlements from proceedings before the CPUC and other cy pres funds of approximately $30 million dollars were funneled to CCPF, primarily from legal and administrative proceedings. Unlike the funds funneled to CCPF via cy pres funds or fines imposed by the CPUC, the funds flowing to the new entity would come from utility companies' voluntary donations after they were urged by the CPUC and others to donate in order to further diversity.
As such, Peter Arth (Chief of Staff to then-President of the CPUC, Michael Peevey) invited Ruthe Ashley to a restaurant in San Francisco. As a result of the meeting, a new entity known as CaliforniaALL was formed as a Section 501(c)(3) charitable entity that would collect funds to theoretically be used to invest in promoting diversity. CaliforniaALL, which came into existence in 2008 and was abruptly dissolved in 2010, was considered to have been in a partnership relationship with the State Bar of California. (See Attachment titled "Memo from Patricia Lee to BOG.") In addition, the partnership stipulation between the State Bar and CaliforniaAll provided that the Board of Governors would appoint two of CaliforniaALL's members to the Board of Directors.
Executive Director of the State Bar of California Judy Johnson, Patricia Lee, and Judge Morrison England were members of CaliforniaALL's "Advisory Council” (see Attachment titled "CaliforniaALL December 2008 Newsletter"), affording Judy Johnson and Judge England numerous opportunities to meet and collude or, at a minimum, to create such an appearance.
CaliforniaALL obtained donations of almost $2 million, primarily from utility companies such as Sempra, AT&T, PG&E and, of course, Verizon Wireless. In addition, Judy Johnson, Patricia Lee, Buchalter Nemer's Holly Fujie, and Leslie Hatamiya colluded to transfer $774,247 sub rosa from the State Bar of California Foundation (dba California Bar Foundation) to CaliforniaALL. (See attachment titled "Cal Bar Foundation's tax return for 2008.") In 2009, yet another $5,000 was transferred from Cal Bar Foundation to CaliforniaALL for purposes of "researching" best practices. Hence, for simplicity's sake, this complaint rounds the amount at issue to $780,000.
The transfer of $780,000 from Cal Bar Foundation to CaliforniaALL was never acknowledged by any of CaliforniaALL's publications. Similarly, it was never mentioned in the California Bar Journal or the NewsRoom of Cal Bar Foundation, where all other grants were heavily reported.
It is my position that the transfer of funds was never mentioned because it resulted from a conspiracy by Ruthe Ashley, Holly Fujie, Patricia Lee, and Leslie Hatamiya (all, incidentally, Asian-Americans who are very active in the promotion of diversity) to quietly shift the $780,000, some of which would later be misappropriated and used for personal gain and kickbacks. Indeed, once the funds reached CaliforniaALL, some of it was misappropriated. In order to cover-up the misappropriation, false and inaccurate statements were submitted to the IRS by CaliforniaALL and Ruthe Ashley. For example, CaliforniaALL, which was housed pro bono at the Sacramento Office of DLA Piper, falsely claimed in IRS filings that it had paid approximately $16,000 in occupancy fees. Additional financial improprieties also exist which cannot be disclosed due to the fact that the State Bar is the wrongdoer and, ironically, is the entity to which I am required to submit this complaint for processing.
It is worth noting that the California Bar Foundation is part and parcel of the State Bar of California, despite claims to the contrary and the contention that it is only affiliated with the State Bar. The fact of the matter is that the State Bar's Board of Governors appoints all Foundation board members, including the president, and that the Executive Director of the California Bar Foundation reports directly to the Board of Governors and needs the Board's approval to change any bylaws, for example.
In the meantime – after Judge England filed for summary dissolution in the Sacramento Superior Court, and after Judge England and Torie L. Flournoy wed, and after Torie Flournoy-England was appointed to serve as a member of CaliforniaALL's board of directors, and while CaliforniaALL was still in existence – a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, in which the State Bar of California was named as the sole defendant.
The action was filed by plaintiff Sara Granda and was titled Sara Granda v. the State Bar of California (Case Number 2:09-cv-02015- MCE; see attachment titled "Complaint by Plaintiff Sara Granda"). The matter was adjudicated by Judge England, who promptly dismissed it. Neither Judge England, the defendant, Judy Johnson, or defense counsel Lawrence Yee, Mark Torres-Gil, or Rachel Grunberg disclosed to Granda the State Bar's ongoing relationship with CaliforniaALL, to wit:
1. CaliforniaALL and the defendant (State Bar of California) are business partners.
2. Judge England and the Executive Director of the State Bar of California (Ms. Judy Johnson) are members of CaliforniaALL's advisory council.
3. Torie Flournoy-England, the spouse of Judge England, is a board member of CaliforniaALL, an entity that is a partner of the State Bar.
4. The unusual sub rosa transfer of $780,000 from defendant to CaliforniaALL.
By failing to make the disclosures mandated by these facts, the above-named attorneys committed misconduct, irrespective of the actual merit of Granda's case or its outcome. As such, each must be disciplined for his/her wrongful conduct. Those attorneys are Judy Johnson, Lawrence Yee, Mark Torres-Gil, Rachel Grunberg, and Holly Fujie.
Fujie, who participated in all the proceedings concerning CaliforniaALL (including, strangely, causing the ex post facto appointment of Peter Arth to the Council of Access and Fairness to give them a chance to meet and collude), was also a member of the Board of Governors' Operation Committee and was briefed regarding Granda's case. In addition, she was aware that Judge England was presiding over the case and that he and his wife were part of CaliforniaALL. In addition, Fujie served as the president of the State Bar of California and as a member of both the Board of Governors and Operations Committee, and was briefed on the matter; in fact, she authorized the expenditure of money to pay as legal fees to oppose the suit before Judge England. In addition Ms. Fujie participated in multiple diversity-related events at which Judge England and his wife Torie Flournoy-England were present; one such even took place on January 27, 2009, when DLA Piper's Gilles Attia and the Office of Assembly-member Mike Davis co-hosted a reception honoring California ALL at the Tsakopoulos Galleria in Sacramento. Despite of all the above, Fujie --instead of speaking up concerning the obvious conflict regarding Judge England -- kept quiet and looked the other way.
Even though the outcome of the Granda matter is irrelevant to a determination of the misconduct described above, the following paragraphs are included to provide further background and to rebut any allegation that the relationship between the Englands and the defendant caused no prejudice to plaintiff Sara Granda, or that the failure to provide fair administration of justice was otherwise harmless.
The fact of the matter is that the plaintiff Granda was severely prejudiced by the misconduct.
Granda, a 2009 graduate of U.C. Davis School of Law, intended to sit for the July 2009 bar exam. The recent graduate, a quadriplegic who can only move her head and fingers, arranged for the California Department of Rehabilitation to pay the examination fee of $600, which it did via check. However, the State Bar stated that it only accepts payments made via credit card, and would not allow Granda to sit for the fast-approaching bar examination. Plaintiff sensed unfairness and, like many recent law school graduates before her who approached federal court, she asked the federal court to award her both monetary and equitable relief in her lawsuit, which claimed that defendant State Bar of California violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The State Bar of California, which was represented by Michael von Loewenfeldt of Kerr & Wagstaffe, as well as Lawrence Yee, Mark Gil-Torres and Rachel Grunberg (State Bar in-house attorneys), asserted that the State Bar was immune pursuant to the 11th Amendment. (See attachment titled "Defendant's Opposition.") In its filing and opposition, defendant mostly cited as authority cases adjudicated by district courts around the country, as there is no clear authority addressing the interactions between the ADA and Eleventh Amendment immunity. Cases which held otherwise were not referenced by defendant, including Stoddard v. Florida Board of Bar Examiners and many other cases which held that, in fact, the ADA abrogates Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Misled, at least in part, by the argument advanced by defendant State Bar, Judge England promptly dismissed the case without giving Granda the chance to amend or plead around the issue of Eleventh Amendment immunity by, for example, naming Judy Johnson as a defendant in her individual capacity. In addition, Granda's claim for monetary relief was completely ignored by the judge, and was never ruled upon.
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the above-named attorneys engaged in egregious misconduct. The fact that they are part of the State Bar, an entity that should hold itself as a beacon of high ethical standards, coupled with Ms. Granda's special circumstances, mandate and call for severe discipline.
For exhibits/attachments, please see @:
Jill Sperber of State Bar Of California Has Some Explaining To Do (... And Also Holly Fujie, Starr Babcock, Judy Johnson, Arnold & Porter's Douglas Winthrop) please see @:
Sara Granda v State Bar of California: Dishonest Journalism by California Bar Journal and Diane Curtis, please see @: