Criminal Justice

Lawyer pleads no contest to charge of recording workers' comments while away from the office

Updated: A Kansas lawyer has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of making audio recordings of his employees while he was away from the office.

Jeremiah Johnson received a suspended sentence of 180 days in jail as part of the plea agreement, the Kansas City Star reports.

According to a document summarizing the factual basis for the plea, Johnson made the audio recordings without the employees’ consent on June 1 and 2 in 2011. He had asserted that it was not against the law to make audio recordings in a public office.

Johnson was also targeted in a civil invasion of privacy suit filed by three female employees at his Olathe law office. They alleged he encouraged them to wear skirts and high heels to the office and he used an iPhone or iPad app to secretly make video recordings under a desk they used, Above the Law reported last year.

A confidential settlement has been reached in the suit, the Kansas City Star says.

According to a statement supplied by Johnson’s lawyer, Richard Merker, no electronic devices were ever placed under employees’ desks and the only office dress code required professional suits and blazers. “The employees knew that an iPhone and an iPad were regularly placed on a stand, sitting on a computer tower under Mr. Johnson’s height-adjustable desk, in clear view,” the statement said.

Prior to the alleged audio recording, lawyers and some employees in the office were concerned that one employee was not working when the lawyers were not there, the statement said.

“The audio recording in the main office should have captured silence, as the employees were assigned projects in a different room and on a different floor, and this incident would not have occurred if they did these assignments as directed by Mr. Johnson,” the statement said. When two employees discovered that Johnson’s iPhone was recording, they found no videos on the phone, according to the statement.

The statement also questioned prosecutors’ motive for charging Johnson, who represented criminal defendants as part of his practice.

Merker told the ABA Journal that no formal disciplinary charges have been filed against Johnson. He said Johnson’s insurer has filed a suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the company does not have any legal responsibilities in the resolution of the civil suit.

Updated at 4:05 p.m. to include information provided by attorney Merker.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.