Deputy DA hit for false claims

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat /

A state judge has admonished Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Clint Parish for misconduct during a 2012 election campaign in Yolo County, but no further disciplinary action was imposed.

A review of the case, however, has been requested by the State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel.

Parish, before being hired in Tuolumne County, ran for a judge's seat in Yolo County in the summer of 2012. He was called to State Bar Court in February for an alleged string of false statements he made about himself and his opponent.

It is against State Bar rules for attorneys to lie about their own qualifications or those of their opponents. State Bar Court specifically handles matters of law practice.

Pat McElroy, judge of the State Bar Court, ruled in September that Parish violated a code of judicial ethics, but no laws, in one of the several claims against him.

Due to a number of mitigating circumstances, no disciplinary action was appropriate beyond a public admonishment, McElroy ruled.

Mitigating circumstances included no prior disciplinary record, good character and taking steps to atone for his misconduct.

Only one of Parish's alleged false statements was deemed to be against judicial ethics by being untrue and made with "reckless disregard for the truth."

In his campaign, Parish asserted that his opponent, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Daniel Maguire, was involved in a case of corporate fraud involving bribe payments in Russia.

Maguire formerly worked for an international law office that was sued for fraud but won the case. No evidence ever tied Maguire to the alleged misconduct, McElroy said.

Parish made the statement on the basis of other unreliable sources alleging Maguire's guilt and failed to do any real research himself, McElroy said, therefore violating judicial ethics with the false claim.

Although there were mitigating circumstances, which reduce penalties, McElroy found one aggravating circumstance, which could have increased penalties - the false statement had the potential to cause significant harm to Maguire and the public.

McElroy ruled that the statement did not actually cause significant harm, according to the evidence in front of him.

Parish received 23 percent of the vote in the election, and may have hurt himself with the controversial claims, McElroy said.

Other statements by Parish were deemed false, but made unknowingly, or perhaps misleading but not beyond the scope of typical campaigning, McElroy said.

In a new development, however, the State Bar's Office of Chief Trial Counsel has requested a review of the case by the Bar Court's review department.

This means McElroy's ruling is "not final," according to Laura Ernde, communications director for the Bar.

Ernde would not say whether the Oct. 1 review request was a typical procedure or if there were specific circumstances to call the ruling into question.

She said it is the policy of State Bar prosecutors not to comment on pending cases. The court document itself requesting the review does not state why the request was made.

Parish was hired as a Tuolumne County deputy district attorney in fall of 2012, shortly after the Yolo County election. He is a graduate of University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law, and was licensed to practice in California in 2000.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Mike Knowles was out of town this week, but has previously said he stood by his decision to hire Parish and said he had been doing a respectable job in Tuolumne County.

Parish did not return calls for comment.

The Union Democrat
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