A Marina del Rey attorney who was removed from
the Michigan bench for judicial misconduct and then lost his license
there was disbarred in California Oct. 19, 2001. LEON JENKINS
[#96406], 48, lost his license after a years-long battle in which
he argued that the California proceedings were rife with procedural
errors and that disbarment was too severe a punishment given the
favorable evidence he offered.
The State Bar Court's review department, which
considered his case three times, recommended the Supreme Court disbar
Jenkins, rejecting his procedural arguments and finding he did not
prove his innocence in the Michigan case.
Jenkins was not charged with any wrongdoing in
California and he provided extensive evidence of community service. He
also argued that the Michigan proceedings relied on a preponderance of
evidence to find him guilty of judicial misconduct - a lower
standard of proof than is required in California.
But Review Judge Ronald Stovitz said Jenkins'
actions in Michigan, which included accepting gifts and favors to
influence his conduct on the bench and improper contacts with parties
or counsel, were serious enough to warrant disbarment in California.
Jenkins "has clearly not sustained his burden to show that
culpability should not be found," Stovitz wrote.
"The Michigan [Attorney Discipline Board]
considered a full evidentiary record, which established respondent's
serious misconduct while a Michigan judge," Stovitz wrote. "The
Michigan Supreme Court independently reviewed the record of Michigan
judicial disciplinary proceedings, finding respondent culpable of
corrupt and improper judicial conduct on 'overwhelming evidence.'
. . . [Jenkins] has shown no constitutional unfairness, and his
culpability found in Michigan would compel a finding of culpability in
Jenkins was admitted to practice in Michigan in
1979 and in California the following year. In 1984, he was appointed a
district court judge in Michigan, a position equivalent to a municipal
court judge in California before courts here were unified. The
Michigan Supreme Court found that between 1984 and 1987, Jenkins
"systematic-ally and routinely sold his office and his public trust,
. . . committed wholesale violations of the most elementary canons of
judicial con-duct, and brought grave dishonor upon this state's
The court found that he accepted bribes to
dismiss traffic citations, intentionally misstated his address to get
a reduction in his auto insurance premiums, solicited an individual
for whom he fixed traffic tickets to commit perjury in a federal
investigation of Jenkins' conduct, engaged in improper
communications with parties and counsel regarding matters coming
before him, improperly accepted gifts and favors from litigants and
counsel who appeared before him, and signed a writ of habeas corpus to
release from custody someone he believed to be a close friend without
adequate information about the case.
Although Jenkins was prosecuted twice in federal
court, he was not found guilty. In 1991, between the two trials, he
was removed from the bench by the Michigan Supreme Court. Three years
later, after an 11-day hearing before the state's discipline board,
his license was revoked. The following year, disciplinary proceedings
began in California under a statute which permits professional
misconduct in another jurisdiction to be considered in a disciplinary
proceeding in this state.
Although he conceded that he dismissed a few
citations improperly, Jenkins disputed most of the evidence against
him. He testified he was an inexperienced lawyer and that he had to
cope with several deaths in his family, including the sudden death of
his wife, leaving him with two young daughters.
After moving to California in 1990, Jenkins'
practice involved mostly police brutality, personal injury, wrongful
death and medical malpractice cases. He devoted between 20 and 30
percent of his practice to pro bono work, chaired the NAACP legal
redress committee and served on the executive board of another
non-profit. He also funded a scholarship in his late wife's name,
spoke at schools to encourage young people to complete their education
and worked with at-risk youth.
Nevertheless, a hearing judge determined that
Jenkins' good works and discipline-free practice fell short of
demonstrating adequate rehabilitation. In addition, Jenkins continues
to deny the serious acts which led to the revocation of his license in
In upholding the hearing judge, Stovitz said
Jenkins "failed to demonstrate that he understands the magnitude and
severity of his misconduct found in the Michigan decision to revoke
his law license."