The president of the the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, which has come under fire for its relationship with disgraced L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, is under new scrutiny as details about his checkered legal past emerge. Meanwhile, an online petition is calling for the chapter’s suspension.
An opinion filed by the California State Bar’s review department reveals a pattern of misconduct that led to L.A. NAACP head Leon Jenkins’ disbarment in Michigan and California.
The April 2014 opinion, which affirmed a hearing judge’s earlier decision to deny Jenkins’ petition for reinstatement, states that after being appointed as a district court judge in 1983, Jenkins “engaged in a course of misconduct that included accepting bribes to dismiss traffic citations; misstating his address to reduce his insurance premium; soliciting an individual to commit perjury in a federal investigation of Jenkins’ misconduct” and other transgressions.
The opinion goes on to state that Jenkins was indicted in 1988 for bribery, racketeering, mail fraud, extortion and conspiracy. While he was ultimately acquitted, the Michigan Supreme Court later removed him from the bench, citing “overwhelming evidence” that Jenkins had “systematically and routinely sold his office and his public trust.”
Jenkins obtained his license to practice law in California in 1980 and moved to the state in 1991, according to the opinion. In 1995, disciplinary proceedings were launched by the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel of the State Bar based on Jenkins’ “misconduct in Michigan,” the opinion states, and the state Supreme Court disbarred him in 2001.
The opinion goes on to state that Jenkins failed to disclose material information in documents relating to his divorce in 2005 and 2006, including the intentional omission of his obligation to pay a 2004 judgment of $660,000 that he owed as a attorney from a civil suit. (The opinion states that Jenkins has made “no payments in satisfaction” of the judgment.)
The opinion also cites Jenkins’ no contest plea to a 2008 misdemeanor violation of reckless driving involving alcohol.
A spokesman for the national branch of the NAACP had no comment for TheWrap on this story. The Los Angeles NAACP has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The opinion does concede that Jenkins “has an impressive record of involvement in community service” and, during his quest for reinstatement, provided 13 character witnesses “who all attested to his honesty, high moral character, and trustworthiness.”
However, the opinion noted, “Despite Jenkins’ impressive good character evidence and community service, he continues to commit errors in judgment that call into question his rehabilitation and present good moral character and fitness to practice.”
The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has been under fire for its relationship with Sterling, who was banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million dollars after admitting that he had made racist comments that were captured on a recording.
Critics wondered how Sterling, who has a history of alleged racist behavior, could maintain such a cozy relationship with the chapter, including the receipt of a lifetime achievement award from the chapter in 2009. (The chapter had planned to bestow another lifetime achievement award to Sterling this year, but changed its plans in light of the recent scandal.)
Occidental College professor Peter Drier went so far as to say, “The only explanation is that these awards were repayment quid-pro-quos for Sterling’s contributions to the NAACP.”
In reaction, public outrage has evolved beyond social media and an online petition has been filed on Change.org demanding that the NAACP suspend its Los Angeles chapter indefinitely. The civil rights organization also has chapters in Hollywood (which produces the Image Awards) and Santa Monica, Calif.
“In light of the Donald Sterling controversy, the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP has proven that they have no intention of combating racism, inequality and prejudice for the black community,” the petition reads. “Instead, the organization is consumed by wealth, power, and the misleading perception of providing legitimate advocacy for people of color.”
So far the petition, filed by Los Angeles resident Tiara Williams, has gathered 375 supporters.