SOURCE OF POOCHIGIAN LEAK NOT FOUND

MEDIA CONTACT:  Nancy McCarthy    415-538-2521   nancy.mccarthy@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, December 29, 2009 — The State Bar of California today announced that the committee investigating the unauthorized leak of the rating of the JNE Commission of Justice Charles Poochigian has concluded its work, and that after a detailed, intensive and thorough investigation was unable to determine who was responsible for the leak.

The committee, formally appointed by the Board of Governors with investigatory authority, interviewed more than 70 people involved in the rating process and obtained statements under penalty of perjury.

The appointment of the investigatory committee reflected the judgment of the State Bar that the leak of the rating compromised the integrity of the JNE (Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation) process. The committee, chaired by Board of Governors public member William H. Gailey, included former Board member Bonnie M. Dumanis, District Attorney of San Diego County; former Chair of the Board’s Regulation and Discipline Committee Richard A. Frankel; and current Board member and former President of the Orange County Bar Association Joseph L. Chairez.

The Committee retained and was aided throughout by independent professional investigators. “The integrity of the entire JNE process rests upon a commitment to confidentiality, and that confidentiality was breached,” said State Bar President Howard Miller. “We thank the committee for its work. Though the investigation in this case did not determine who was responsible, the State Bar will always take with the greatest seriousness, and vigorously investigate, any future breach of JNE confidentiality,” he added.

The State Bar also established a separate committee to review all JNE related policies, procedures and guidelines including appointments and standards used by JNE.

The JNE rating of Justice Poochigian as “not qualified,” solely because he had not been a trial judge or recently a trial practitioner, was criticized by Chief Justice George at the hearing of the Commission on Judicial Appointments that ultimately approved the appointment of Poochigian in the face of the JNE rating.

Justice Poochigian, among other qualifications, had been Chair of the California Senate Judiciary Committee and had long and distinguished service in the California legislature. The CJA hearing indicated the JNE Commission had not followed its own statutory obligation to take into account that kind of legal experience in addition to traditional trial experience. After the rating was made public at the CJA confirmation, Miller also criticized the announced JNE standard for the appellate appointment as being “intellectually indefensible” because it would have kept off appellate courts whole classes of experienced legal professionals, including all academics and some of the most distinguished appellate justices in history in California and the nation. The State Bar Committee reviewing all JNE processes is expected to complete its work by in the spring of 2010.

Founded in 1927 by the legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By December 2009, membership reached more than 223,000.

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