California's State Auditor reported that the State Bar has failed to protect the public from lawyer misconduct, fraud and other crimes. Pulling no punches, the June 2015 Report was titled: " The State Bar of California ...........Has not Consistently Protected the Public Through It's Attorney Discipline Process and Lacks Accountability".
After decades of concealment and protecting corrupt members, seems the State Bar is imploding. Whistleblower complaints from insiders who knew of buried cases and other secret financial abuses are emerging and a flood of lawsuits and secret settlements are being managed as the Bar struggles to keep their dirty laundry from being aired. An article published March 30, 2016 describes what is going on at the Bar as nothing short of "CIVIL. WAR".
Meanwhile the public is left unprotected and crooked lawyers continue to impose misconduct on many of the 8 million lawsuits the state must manage each year.
The State Bar investigates less than 1% of complaints lodged against their members, and California's State Auditor describes why this harms the public in a 75 page report. For millions of Californians whose complaints went unanswered, they didn't need a report.
"Ethics" in California's legal system appears to be a mandatory course title, not an actual course of conduct that is enforced or monitored by the Bar. This is especially true in family law where so many Californians are impacted by deeply personal and emotional issues such as custody, property and income .
Similar scrutiny is now falling at the feet of California's Commission on Judicial Performance, CJP, the public agency that manages complaints against judges. Two years ago the agency, under direction of Victoria Henley, received a GRADE of "F ", the lowest of public agencies reported I'm a state audit and little appears to have changed.
In March 2016, after a flood of irate citizens stormed State Legislators, having been ignored by the Commission for years, a budget committee elected to withhold funding to the Commission, until Victoria Henley explained a number of disturbing statistics brought to the attention of legislators in a privately funded special report.
Public outrage after a detailed report comparing California's judicial complaints with systems overseeing judges in other states. The report was published by Court Reform , LLC, and made it impossible for Victoria Henley to escape the spotlight on her own incompetence. (See video of report presentation to California's budget committee).
Media scrutiny over this issue has escalated. In just one week reporters from the Center of Investigative Reporting and news outlets from San Francisco to Los Angeles are covering issues raised in the report, and with a full court press worthy of March Madness-like attention. Such attention demands the Commission answer for years of inaction, that raped and violated public trust in California's legal system..
In recent months groups from Marin, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Mateo and Santa Clara County have organized, all intent on bringing attention to the misconduct of lawyers and judges that have marred California's legal system for decades, especially in family courts.
In Contra Costa, a group of litigants rose up and brought the State Legislature's attention to the issue involving the state's judges. Efforts from Contra Costa activists expanded to family court victims in Sacramento who started years ago by bringing the public's attention to the issues through production of the documentary Divorce Corp.
By late 2015, activists from Marin and Santa Clara had joined in speaking up against judicial misconduct related to divorce and probate cases and a team of investigative reporters began covering critical issues of concern to the larger group.
An estimated 1000 plus citizens have organized to address the State Bar, Commission on Judicial Performance and individual counties engaging in judicial misconduct that harms the public confidence in California's legal system.
The group appears in the form of Super bowl protests in Santa Clara County, petitions on Change.org, and social media campaigns intended to shed light on bad judges and lawyers, and the agencies that over see them. A recent #FireVictoriaHenleyNow. campaign is just one recent example of how the dedicated group refuses to allow these issues to continue to be buried. The effort to withhold public funding to CJP, is a result of years of frustration from citizens in all California counties.
The committee that withheld the Commission's funding, was led by Assembly Member Nora Campos of San Jose. Ms. Campos's home district has been a hotbed for both judicial. and lawyer misconduct in recent months, misconduct that is seeping from San Jose's courts in Santa Clara County and outraging local voters.
By way of example, Judge Scott, of Santa Clara County, was recently publicly admonished by CJP, after engaging in, and flirting with, one side during a criminal prosecution case. The issue was brought forward by the DA's office, at the same time other complaints against judges in Santa Clara, from private citizens, were ignored.
In Silicon Valley , Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County's District Attorney , has indicted family lawyer and custody expert Valerie Houghton for fraud, theft and embezzlement, along with her husband, an Intro realtor. Terry Houghton.
Ms. Houghton, a family lawyer and licensed custody expert, had been the subject of decades of complaints stemming from mothers who claimed Ms. Houghton gave paid false testimony in custody disputes, that almost always favored a wealthy father.
Family Court activists are demanding to know why their complaints were ignored for decades and why Ms. Houghton was only charge by the DA, after her conduct was reported by a wealthy real estate family from Gilroy, California.
Members of a grassroots organization based in Santa Clara County, have been tracking family lawyer complaints with the State Bar, which appear to have been mostly ignored for decades, similar to what was recently reported on CJP.
Santa Clara Court litigant complaints regarding crooked lawyers; Valerie Houghton, Bradford Baugh and Heather Allan have been launched at the Bar for years, and simply ignored.
Bradford Baugh was previously the subject of a Commission of Judicial Performance's recommendation where Judge Stewart was repeatedly warned to disclose his close relationship with Mr. Baugh, who acted before Judge Stewart as a children's lawyer in bitter custody battles in Santa Clara.
Eventually Judge Stewart was encouraged to slink off into retirement, leaving a wake of custodial custody order destruction in his path and leaving Bradford Baugh to continue to act ethically challenged before other family court judges including Mary Ann Grill, Derek Woodhouse and James Towery, where his misconduct appears to have flourished for three decades.
A committee in Santa Clara has tracked multiple State Bar complaints filed against Mr. Baugh, based on misuse of his trust account, financial misconduct and professional conduct violations, all ignored for decades by California's State Bar.
The State Bar has also received complaints that lawyer Nat Hales accept cash bribes (delivered by Brad Baugh ) and that lawyer Heather Allan was improperly sent funds from Brad Baugh, showing the flagrant financial misconduct tolerated for years, at the expend of the County's children and poorest citizens. This information has led to an unraveling of a sorted tale that leads to a path of RICO violations , fraud and theft galore, which is hard for the Bar to continue to ignore, as they additionally face civil war in their own ranks.
Did the State Bar's and Commission on Judicial Performance's failure to act on complaints constitute concealment of evidence ? If not a violation of public trust, isn't such an issue a matter of public interest ?