California Bar Journal
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Former state schools chief Bill Honig disciplined
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Although the long legal travails of former state schools chief LOUIS “BILL” HONIG JR. [#34656] ended nearly two years ago, the State Bar has slapped him with a discipline order. Honig, 61, hasn’t practiced law since 1983 and apparently has no intention of doing so any time soon. Indeed, he was not placed on probation and has to meet certain requirements only if he ever decides to practice again.

Convicted of four felony conflict of interest counts in 1993, Honig was placed on interim suspension by the bar that year. The new order, which took effect May 20, 1998, placed him on actual suspension for two years, but he receives credit for the interim suspension, which began in 1993.

Honig was elected superintendent of public education in California three times and served from 1983 to 1993.

In 1992, he was charged with four counts of participating in making state contracts in which he had a financial interest.

The indictment stemmed from payments made by the Depart-ment of Education to local school districts to pay the salaries of individuals who actually worked for the Quality Education Project, a nonprofit corporation. QEP used as its address Honig’s residence address, and the required periodic legal statements and reports were filed by Honig’s wife, Nancy.

Honig was convicted on all four counts following a jury trial in Sacramento County Superior Court. He was sentenced to four years of probation, 1,000 hours of community service, and was ordered to make restitution payments of $274,754 and pay a fine of $10,800. A one-year jail sentence was suspended.

Because of the felony convictions, the bar placed Honig on interim suspension, pending the final disposition of the case.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction in 1996 and remanded the case to Sacramento Superior Court for redetermination of restitution as a condition of probation.

Later that year, the Sacramento court granted Honig’s motion to reduce his convictions to misdemeanors and ordered his probation terminated. It also ordered him to make restitution in the amount of $47,000, which he paid immediately to the state Department of Education.

In a stipulation the bar reached with Honig, it found that his convictions do not involve moral turpitude but do involve other misconduct warranting discipline.

Honig put in hundreds of hours of community service following the convictions.

Judge James Long, who presided over the trial and later reduced the felony counts to misdemeanors, said Honig showed “a degree of courage” in fulfilling his public service requirements.

He taught reading and math to fifth-graders every week for two years, helped develop curriculum and design reading plans, volunteered at teachers’ colleges and refined vocational education for middle school students.

In mitigation, Honig was admitted to practice in 1964 and has no prior record of discipline. He cooperated fully with the bar’s investigation and made restitution of $47,000, as ordered by the superior court.