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JNE leak investigated

State Bar President Howard Miller appointed a four-member committee last month to investigate charges that a confidential Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE) rating of a judicial candidate was illegally leaked to a news outlet.

The committee will focus on the charge that a confidential rating of former state Sen. Charles S. “Chuck” Poochigian was leaked to the public before his nomination to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno was announced by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The Commission on Judicial Appointments was to consider the appointment Sept. 24.

All JNE proceedings are strictly confidential and the ratings are not to be made public under any circumstances by JNE before any announcement by the governor.

If the task force determines that a JNE member breached confidentiality, it will report to the JNE commission and the bar president with a recommendation whether the JNE member should be removed from the commission and referred for criminal prosecution. If an attorney is determined to be the source of a leak, that attorney may be subject to discipline.

“JNE members take an oath that includes a commitment to keep all evaluations confidential, and JNE members know that any leak of confidentiality is a violation of Government Code Section 12011.5,” Miller said. “The essential foundation of JNE is its commitment to confidentiality. Breaching the oath and that foundation is an outrage that undermines the work of the entire commission.”

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