Bar Associations

Fired California bar leader allegedly misled trustees, leaked report says

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The California bar leader who sued over his firing is losing the latest round in the public relations war after two legal publications reported on an internal report examining his conduct.

Former executive director Joe Dunn claimed he was fired after he and seven other anonymous complainants filed internal whistleblower complaints alleging “egregious improprieties” by some bar officials, including an alleged attempt to hide the true backlog of discipline complaints by the bar’s chief trial counsel. The bar fired back with a statement calling his suit “baseless” and his claims “bewildering,” given that it was his job to manage bar employees.

Now the Recorder (sub. req.) and the Daily Journal (sub. req.) are reporting on an internal report prepared by Munger, Tolles & Olson alleging that Dunn misled the California bar’s Board of Trustees. The Daily Journal did not reveal the source who provided a copy of the report to the publication, and the Recorder did not reveal two sources who shared the contents of the report. Dunn was fired Nov. 7, after trustees received the report.

According to the Daily Journal, “the most damning aspect of the report” concerns allegations that Dunn misrepresented that California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye supported a proposal to move the bar’s headquarters from San Francisco to Sacramento. The report also alleges Dunn failed to reveal the chief justice’s concerns about legislation that would give the bar the power to seek civil penalties for unauthorized practice of law, the Daily Journal says.

The report also alleges Dunn was incorrect when he claimed that bar funds would not be used to pay for trips to Mongolia by Dunn and other bar officials that were intended to help set up a lawyer-oversight system. The bar spent $7,000, though $5,000 was later paid by a law firm, the Daily Journal says.

Dunn’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, told the publications that Dunn didn’t see the report before it was leaked and he never got a chance to refute the conclusions. He “categorically denies” its allegations, Geragos told the Daily Journal.

Allegations that Dunn made misleading statements concerning the bar move are “categorically untrue,” Geragos told the Recorder, and the tab for the Mongolia trips was totally covered by the law firm and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

The Daily Journal says it did not obtain the report from a source at Munger Tolles, which represents the publication. Munger Tolles name partner Charles Munger is chairman of the Daily Journal Corp.

Story updated Nov. 21 to revise description of whether the report was leaked or shared.

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