By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – Retired Superior Court Judge Martha Goldin filed a complaint with the State Bar of California against interim San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, alleging that Jenkins violated State Bar Rules and the Business and Professions Code through acts of dishonesty.
According to a release, the complaint filed by Judge Goldin, who authored a leading opinion on legal ethics and attorney misconduct, alleges that Jenkins’ portrayal of her employment by three nonprofit 501(c)(3) entities with connections to her claimed “volunteer” position with the recall has been dishonest, deceitful, and either reckless or intentional misinterpretations.
Judge Goldin also alleges that “Jenkins has been dishonest when claiming that she has never been found guilty of misconduct despite a Court having found that she has committed misconduct in the prosecution of a case during her time as Assistant District Attorney. State Bar Rules prohibit attorneys, including those holding office, from dishonest conduct.”
“One of the most fundamental duties of attorneys, enshrined in various statutes and California State Bar Rules, is to be honest. This duty is particularly essential for a District Attorney, who represents ‘The People’ in Court,” said retired Judge Goldin, who served on the bench for 16 years. “We ‘The People’ must have faith that this representative, and all other representatives, will carry out their duties honestly and truthfully.”
In the complaint, the judge notes that, prior to resigning from her job over a disagreement in a prosecution of a mentally ill man, Jenkins failed to turn over to the defense “a heap of evidence that included handwritten notes from a police inspector and video footage.”
This failure, Goldin alleges, “led to the dismissal and refiling of the case and extensive internal review by the District Attorney’s office of all cases she had been working on.”
Jenkins in an October 2021 interview with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Heather Knight, said that her next job would be “volunteering for the campaign to recall her former boss.”
Between October 2021 and June 7, 2022, Jenkins “identified herself as a volunteer.”
However, while claiming to be a “volunteer” Gold alleges, “Jenkins chose to withhold from the public information regarding over $173,000 in payments she received from the nonprofit entities until she was legally required to do so.”
Last month, she publicly stated, “In retrospect, I would never have wanted to mislead people,” seemingly acknowledging that she did mislead the public about her paid and “volunteer” work.
The connection between the non-profit Neighbors For a Better San Francisco, a 501c3 and an organization of the same name, registered as a 501c4 raised many questions in the media and the public.
As the complaint notes, “Both entities were incorporated on the same day, March 11, 2021 and share the same attorney, Secretary and CFO. William Oberndorf, the President and a Director of Neighbors 501(c)(3), also serves as a Director of Neighbors 501(c)(4), which contributed $4.5 million of the total $7.2 million raised for the recall.”
The release notes, “Jenkins’ unseemly entanglement with the 501(c)(3) entities has also raised questions as to whether the payments she received were an unlawful indirect contribution to the recall campaign – which would constitute an IRS violation and would have required that Jenkins register as a campaign consultant with the San Francisco Ethics Commission. “
Further, they add, “Failure to register as a paid campaign consultant is a violation of San Francisco’s Campaign and Conduct Code and could result in criminal enforcement. The District Attorney is solely responsible for prosecuting these violations.”
According to the release, Jenkins has also misrepresented her office’s role in prosecuting ethics ordinance violations.
She claimed that her office does not “fully conduct those investigations.”
The release also claims, she “deceptively claimed attorney client privilege, despite not legally representing any of the 501(c)(3)s, to justify her refusal to produce retainer agreements or job descriptions for her work to prove that the 501(c)(3) payments were not unlawful indirect contributions to the recall campaign.”
In 2016, a San Francisco appellate court reversed convictions in a case then Assistant District Attorney Jenkins prosecuted as a result of prosecutorial misconduct by Jenkins.
The appellate court found that Jenkins was guilty of a form of misconduct known as Griffin error, when a prosecutor violates constitutional protections by improperly commenting to the jury on a defendant’s failure to testify.
On September 13, 2022 at a district attorney candidate debate, Jenkins untruthfully declared, “I want to make clear first and foremost never have I ever been found to have committed misconduct in a case.”
“Instead of the honesty required of her as a member of the State Bar of California, Brooke Jenkins has engaged in numerous dishonest and deceitful acts over the several months preceding and during her tenure as interim San Francisco District Attorney,” said Goldin. “Jenkins’ violation of both State Bar Rules and the Business and Professions Code necessitates a State Bar investigation and sanctions to hold her to account for this misconduct.”
The State Bar of California reviews all complaints against attorneys and unlicensed legal providers to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted.