Two controversial campaign mailers that cost former Yolo County prosecutor Clint Parish some key endorsements in his unsuccessful bid for judge last year have also gotten him in trouble with the State Bar of California.
On Thursday, State Bar officials announced the filing of disciplinary charges against Parish “for allegedly failing to comply with ethical rules while seeking judicial office” by misrepresenting both himself and his opponent, incumbent Judge Daniel Maguire.
A three-page charging notice says Parish “willfully violated Rules of Professional Conduct” by claiming in campaign mailers that Maguire was involved “in a sordid case of corporate fraud” while working for a private law firm in Denver in the 1990s, and that he played a role in the partial commutation of a prison sentence for the son of one of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political allies.
Maguire has said he left the Denver firm years before the lawsuit referenced in Parish’s ad was filed. Although he had served as one of Schwarzenegger’s deputy legal secretaries, Maguire said he was already a judge when he learned the governor had reduced the prison sentence for former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez’s son.
Parish also erred in claiming that the Winters Police Department had endorsed him, and his campaign yard signs “gave the false impression that he had judicial experience,” the State Bar contends.
“(R)espondent knew that the statements … were false, deceptive or misleading, or were made with reckless disregard for the truth,” the charging notice says.
Reached by phone Friday, Parish, 41, declined to comment on the charges. He left his job with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office last November.
He now has up to 20 days to file a response to the State Bar’s allegations, spokeswoman Laura Ernde said. A status conference is then scheduled within three weeks before the State Bar Court in San Francisco.
If the charges are upheld, discipline against Parish could range from a reprimand to disbarment, though the decision must first be approved by the California Supreme Court, Ernde said.
Parish, who was admitted to the bar in 2000, has no prior record of disciplinary action.
Ernde said the charges arose from a complaint that was filed with the State Bar, but “the identity of the complainant is confidential at this point.”
The campaign mailers in question appeared in voters’ mailboxes several weeks before the June 2012 election day. Within days, nearly all of Parish’s key supporters had jumped ship, including Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, the Yolo County Republican Party — even Parish’s own boss, District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
Parish later expressed “regret” for the mailers, which he said “reflected an aggressiveness that was not appropriate for this campaign. He also announced he had fired the campaign consultant, Aaron Park, who led him to believe the allegations were true.
“I trusted their opinion, and I definitely shouldn’t have,” Parish said at the time. But the damage had been done, and Maguire handily won re-election with 77.2 percent of the vote.
Maguire, citing the pending case, declined to comment on the disciplinary charges.
— Reach Lauren Keene at email@example.com or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene