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News + PoliticsRetired judge files state Bar complaint against DA Brooke Jenkins

Retired judge files state Bar complaint against DA Brooke Jenkins

Martha Goldin asks for inquiry into the DA's paid work for nonprofits that were tightly linked to the Boudin recall campaign.

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A retired Superior Court judge who lives in San Francisco has filed a detailed complaint with the state Bar Association claiming that District Attorney Brooke Jenkins lied about her work for supporters of the Chesa Boudin recall.

The complaint focuses on information that has been reported widely, in the most detail by Michael Barba at the SF Standard. After quitting her job at a prosecutor after a dispute with Boudin, her then boss, about whether a mentally ill person should be sent to a hospital or to prison, she began to work for three nonprofits.

Brooke Jenkins faces a state Bar investigation

The three collectively paid her more than $170,000 for what amounts to about six months of work.

Every one of those organizations was directly connected to the committee that was running the Boudin recall. Jenkins was a leading spokesperson for the recall, and called herself a “volunteer.”

She has refused to provide any evidence of the consulting work she said she did for the three nonprofits, saying that would be covered by attorney-client privilege.

But Judge Martha Goldin, who served on the Los Angeles bench for 16 years and now lives in SF, argues in her complaint that Jenkins misled the public about her work—and that it likely isn’t subject to attorney-client privilege.

The whole situation is very dubious at best; The same big donors were funding both the recall campaign and the nonprofits where Jenkins was working. They shared an address. They were all linked to Mary Jung, a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors, and her assistant, Jay Cheng.

If she was actually getting paid for working on the recall campaign, she failed to file as a campaign consultant with the SF Ethics Commission. Since the money she was getting paid was through tax-exempt organizations, if she was working on the campaign in exchange for that money there would be IRS implications.

In an 18-page complaint, Goldin argues that Jenkins violated the rules of ethics required by all California lawyers.

From the complaint:

Jenkins’ portrayal of her employment by 501(c)(3)s with substantial links to her claimed “volunteer” position with the recall are so tangled that it is difficult to pigeon-hole them into one violation. It is clear that her statements surrounding those relationships have been dishonest, deceitful and either reckless or intentional misrepresentations.

Between October 2021 and June 2022, Jenkins claimed that she was a volunteer spokesperson for SF Safer Without Boudin, the official recall political action committee against her former boss, then San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. After her appointment as interim District Attorney, Jenkins was legally compelled to disclose financial interests. Those disclosures showed that during her approximately 8 months as a “volunteer,” she was paid in excess of $120,000 to work for three non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations with close ties to the recall and the 501(c)(4) recall entity.

When her financial disclosures were scrutinized, Jenkins admitted that her total 501(c)(3) compensation was in excess of $173,000. She also disclosed that two of the individuals responsible for assisting her in obtaining these “consulting” jobs were her “volunteer” supervisors for the recall, Mary Jung, and Jung’s associate Jay Cheng, a principal in the Neighbors 501(c)(4) substantially funding the recall.

Jenkins has made myriad convoluted explanations about these tangled relationships. In the best light, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Jenkins lied when she held herself out as a volunteer.

More than just violating State Bar Rule 8.4(c), Jenkins likely participated in Internal Revenue Code violations by each of these 501(c)(3)s. These 501[c)(3)s are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.[1] 

Jenkins has made myriad convoluted explanations about these tangled relationships. In the best light, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Jenkins lied when she held herself out as a volunteer.

Jenkins has made myriad convoluted explanations about these tangled relationships. In the best light, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Jenkins lied when she held herself out as a volunteer.

From the press release announcing the complaint:

“One of the most fundamental duties of attorneys, enshrined in various statutes and California State Bar Rules, is to be honest.  This duty is particularly essential for a District Attorney, who represents ‘The People’ in Court,” said Goldin, who served on the bench for 16 years. “We ‘The People’ must have faith that this representative, and all other representatives, will carry out their duties honestly and truthfully.”   

The state Bar Association doesn’t comment on complaints, but it does investigate all of them. In this case, a complaint filed by a former judge will have some additional credibility.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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