Former Candidate Disciplined by State Bar Court for False Accusations in 2012 Judicial Race

The May 2012 flier containing allegations of bribery that were admittedly false
The May 2012 flier containing allegations of bribery that were admittedly false

Last week, the State Bar Court Review Department said Clint Parish made the false charge against his opponent, a sitting Yolo County Superior Court judge, with reckless disregard for the truth.

The court found the false accusation violated rule 1-700 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires attorneys running for judicial office to abide by Canon 5 of the California Code of Judicial Ethics. The judicial canon states that candidates for judicial office shall not “knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position or any other fact concerning the candidate or his or her opponent.”

“[W]e find Parish’s reckless statement implicating a judge with bribery requires public discipline to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and to preserve public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,” the Review Department order said.

In September of 2013, a State Bar Court Hearing Department judge found that Parish violated the rule but they recommended an admonition, which is not considered discipline. Parish conceded that his campaign mailer contained a false statement, but argued it did not warrant discipline because it was unintentional.

The charges stem from a mailer sent in May, 2012, that the Vanguard reported on, in which Clinton Parish, then a Deputy District Attorney in Yolo County, accused Dan Maguire, a sitting Superior Court Judge in Yolo County of a host of allegations.

As the Vanguard covered at the time, he asserted “that his opponent, while in private practice, was involved ‘in a sordid case of corporate fraud that involved payment of bribes in Russia …’ ; was ‘part of Arnold’s legal team that made decisions including commuting the sentence of convicted murderer Esteban Nunez …’ ; and that his opponent was ‘quoted defending the Protocol Foundation – used to hide $1.7 million in Arnold’s Travel Expenses.’ “

Furthermore, he posted “on his campaign web site a captioned photograph of himself and a uniformed officer in front of the Winters’ [sic] Police Department. The photograph’s caption stated: ‘Clint Parish has been endorsed by the Winter’s [sic] Police Department.’ In truth and in fact respondent had not been endorsed by the Winters’ [sic] Police Department.”

As a result of those allegations, numerous supporters, including his boss, District Attorney Jeff Reisig, and Sheriff Ed Prieto withdrew their support.

Ultimately, Mr. Parish suspended his campaign and he was soundly defeated a month later.

The state bar ruling in the fall of 2013 appeared to mark the end of the saga. However, both parties appealed the hearing judge’s decisions including the order recommending an admonition. The Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar (OCTC, Office of the Chief Trial Counsel) sought a public reproval, arguing that Mr. Parish made five misrepresentations and/or misleading statements.

Mr. Parish continues to argue he “unknowing made one false statement about his opponent” and argues that the OCTC “failed to prove he made the statements with a reckless disregard of the truth.” Mr. Parish argued that they affirm the order of admonition.

In a ruling they write, “After independently reviewing the record (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 9.12), we agree with the hearing judge that Parish’s statement accusing his opponent of involvement in bribery and corporate fraud was a factual misrepresentation made with reckless disregard for the truth.”

They add, “We also agree that the other four campaign statements alleged in the Notice of Disciplinary Charges (NDC) do not violate the rule, that extensive mitigating circumstances are present, and that the record does not support a finding of significant harm.”

However, they write, “We disagree with the hearing judge, however, that this matter should be resolved with an order of admonition, which is not discipline. Instead, we find Parish’s reckless statement implicating a judge with bribery requires public discipline to maintain the integrity of the legal profession and to preserve public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.”

They order Mr. Parish “publicly reproved” until he successful completes the State Bar’s Ethics School.

In a serious of attacks, the mailers made a number of key charges against Judge Maguire, including that he was “Arnold’s Bagman.”

Judge Maguire, the mailer inaccurately charged, while in private practice, “was involved in a sordid case of corporate fraud that involved payment of bribes in Russia.”

Judge Maguire, prior to being a judge, was an associate at a law firm, Home, Roberts and Owen, which had a main office in Denver, but also an office in Russia. Mr. Maguire worked in the Denver office and had nothing to do with the Russian office.

The firm was sued for fraud in Denver, but prevailed in the matter and Mr. Maguire “had left HRO before the lawsuit had been filed and had nothing to do with the office in Russia.”

In the correct ruling, Mr. Parish “concedes the statement implicating Judge Maguire in bribery and corporate fraud was ‘actually false.’” They write, “He learned it was false after the mailer had been delivered to homes in Yolo County in May, but he could have ascertained this fact before sending it out. The accusation was brought to Parish’s attention in March via an email from Wells in which he referenced an attached article, and stated ‘if I read this right,’ the law firm Judge Maguire had previously worked for ‘was doing the legal work for a bunch of Russian mobsters.’”

Mr. Parish failed to read an attached article in the email nor did “he conduct any research to establish the accuracy of Wells’s assessment. Indeed, the email provided no factual support to accuse Judge Maguire of bribery or corporate fraud. In addition, though he relied entirely on Wells’s conclusions about Judge Maguire on this issue, Parish did not ask Wells to identify the steps he had taken, if any, to vet the accusation.”

Judge Maguire testified that had Mr. Parish conducted basic online research, he would have found that there was no factual support for the allegation.

Mr. Parish, now in private practice in Sonora, California, had no previous record of discipline after being admitted to the bar in 2000.

In rule changes that were adopted by the California Supreme Court in November 2012, judges and lawyers seeking judicial office are required to take a free online ethics course within 60 days of filing for office.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 Comments

  1. sisterhood

    “The court found the false accusation violated rule 1-700 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires attorneys running for judicial office to abide by Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Ethics. The judicial canon states that candidates for judicial office shall not “knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position or any other fact concerning the candidate or his or her opponent.”

    And yet a cop can knowingly and recklessly make false statements to friends and family members of falsely accused people in the name of “interrogation, or fact finding” in order to get them to corroborate a guess. So, looks like political candidates have higher legal standards of professional conduct than cops. Let the jokes begin, I don’t care.

    Thou shall not lie.

    1. Anon

      From http://people.howstuffworks.com/police-interrogation1.htm

      “With a few exceptions, the police are allowed to lie to a suspect to get him to confess. The belief is that an innocent person would never confess to a crime she didn’t commit, even if she were confronted with false physical evidence of her involvement. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case (more on false confessions…), but it’s a big part of the reason why the police are allowed to employ deceptive tactics in interrogation.”

      1. Davis Progressive

        that’s interesting.  i wonder how accurate a basis that explanation is.  if police’s ability to lie is premised on the idea that an innocent person would not falsely confess, then the entire premise is flawed.  there are of course two plausible paths that it could work.  one is that an individual subconsciously when confronted with that information confesses or the other is that they calculate hat they are caught and thefore wish to minimize the damage.  either way, the damage is done.

  2. sisterhood

    Anyone being interrogated by Dixon Police Dept. should remember that video camera’s are on you, and lip readers available, even if the cop does not have a tape recorder going. Even if you state to them you prefer not to be recorded. That’s why they have the old fashioned tape recorder on their desk, so they can claim a misunderstanding or miscommunication….Also, they need a baseline of your facial expressions so they can observe your body language.  In the name of investigative techniques, they will tell you a lie to see if your face registers displeasure and disbelief. All in the name of your civil rights, folks….

    1. zaqzaq

      Where is it illegal for the police to lie about not audio taping a witness, victim or suspect.  I would think they should always record statements made concerning a criminal investigation in order to preserve those statements against later recantation.  I do not get what your problem is with this.

  3. Tia Will

    While I agree wholeheartedly that the moral prescription against lying should apply to all, citizens, police, lawyers and judges, I find it somewhat reassuring that this review of the Parish case led to discipline rather than merely an admonishment.

    Taking a remedial course in ethics applicable to his field in order to continue his practice would seem to strike a reasonable balance in this case where the overall damage to Mr. McQuire turned out to be minimal if it even existed, and Mr. Parish already seems to have paid a high price for his egregious behavior. I am troubled by one aspect of Mr. Parish’s behavior. Despite all that happened, he seems if not oblivious to, at least unrepentant of the baseless and reprehensible nature of his actions and rather than accepting full responsibility was still seeking to minimize his personal culpability.

     

    1. SODA

      Hi Tia!

      I would think this might be a good candidate for restorative justice, in that the process could possibly turn around your assessment of Mr Parrish.  What do you think?  Probably would not be amenable to it, but if so…..

      1. hpierce

        Well, Mr Mc Quire could publicly forgive Parrish, with the possible effect of “heaping more coals on his head” for not ‘manning up’ to his (Mr Parrish’s) personal responsibility.  Restorative justice for Mr Mc Quire, I will leave to other opiners…  restorative justice for the legal community and the public might be for Mr Parrish to voluntarily leave the legal profession, at least as a practicing attorney, perhaps working as a para-legal for the dis-enfranchised.

      2. Tia Will

        Hi SODA

        From the little I know about restorative justice, this case seems like it would be a very good fit. I am wondering if someone with more experience in this area would like to weigh in.

    2. ryankelly

      I disagree that the damage done to Maguire is minimal.  These false allegations are forever posted on the Internet and, if not resoundingly declared false, will come back again and again to discredit Maguire.

  4. Davis Progressive

    it’s interesting that you guys have missed a glaring problem here.  look at the lengths that the state bar has gone to discipline a man who essentially ran a dirty campaign.  a tactic that while egregious quickly backfired and destroyed the slim prospects he had for election.

    now look at how little is done to discipline even pretty egregious cases of prosecutorial misconduct that end up putting people in prison for decades and ruining their lives.  the innocence project came out with a study five years ago that showed the few of those attorneys are ever disciplined.

    the message is that the bar is vigilant in going after someone who wrongs one of their own, but negligent in going after many who prey on the weak and the powerless.

     

    1. tj

      It might also be added that the bar is vigilant about going after someone who doesn’t have friends in high places.  If Maguire were in Parish’ place I doubt much would have been done;  admonishment would have been the end of it if anything were even done about it in the first place.   Parrish is low hanging fruit so at Maguire’s request they hit him hard.

      Thou shalt not lie:  Does this refer to Maguire’s boss Arnold lying with the maid, and making a baby? lol

    2. Tia Will

      DP

      now look at how little is done to discipline even pretty egregious cases of prosecutorial misconduct that end up putting people in prison for decades and ruining their lives.”

      I have not ignored this in the past. I have been very vocal in my condemnation of prosecutorial misconduct and very clear that I feel that strong adverse consequences should be applied to it. I just did not see it as directly related to this particular case and so did not bring it up here.

  5. Anon

    Tia Will: “While I agree wholeheartedly that the moral prescription against lying should apply to all, citizens, police, lawyers and judges, I find it somewhat reassuring that this review of the Parish case led to discipline rather than merely an admonishment.

    DP: “it’s interesting that you guys have missed a glaring problem here.  look at the lengths that the state bar has gone to discipline a man who essentially ran a dirty campaign.  a tactic that while egregious quickly backfired and destroyed the slim prospects he had for election.
    now look at how little is done to discipline even pretty egregious cases of prosecutorial misconduct that end up putting people in prison for decades and ruining their lives.  the innocence project came out with a study five years ago that showed the few of those attorneys are ever disciplined.
    the message is that the bar is vigilant in going after someone who wrongs one of their own, but negligent in going after many who prey on the weak and the powerless.

    The discipline would have been minimal and not included a public admonishment had not both sides appealed the ruling!

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