Bloomberg Law
May 26, 2023, 8:52 PM

California Bar’s Dismissal of Claims Against Ex-Director Upheld

Joyce E. Cutler
Joyce E. Cutler
Staff Correspondent

The California State Bar Court’s decision to drop disciplinary charges against former bar Executive Director Joe Dunn was warranted as time barred, an appellate panel held Friday.

The State Bar Court’s Review Department, which acts as an appellate panel, rejected arguments by the special deputy trial counsel—outside attorneys the bar hires when there are conflicts—and found no abuse of discretion or error of law in a trial judge’s dismissing some of the charges the bar filed against Dunn.

The disciplinary claims allege Dunn misled the Board of Trustees about who paid for his trip to Mongolia and about opposition to pending legislation. The bar argued the clock began when the arbitration over Dunn’s 2014 firing was completed in 2017. Dunn, a former state lawmaker, sued the bar in 2014 weeks after he was fired. Disciplinary charges were filed in July 2022.

The Board of Trustees, “as the governing body of the State Bar, concluded no later than November 2014 that Dunn had not been truthful with them,” and that the “five-year statute of limitations applies here,” Review Judge Tamara M. Ribas wrote. Ribas was joined by Judge W. Kearse McGill.

In dissent, Presiding Judge Richard Honn said the then-chief trial counsel who reported concerns about Dunn’s actions couldn’t be considered a complainant under bar rules so the five-year statute shouldn’t apply.

Dunn co-counsel Mark Geragos in an email said that “our hope is that now the State Bar would realize that this matter was ginned up” and the “existential problems of the present State Bar dwarf old grudges against their former CEO from a decade ago.” The California Bar is contending with fallout from revelations it failed to discipline plaintiffs’ attorney Thomas Girardi, who was disbarred after stealing from clients.

Still pending are moral turpitude claims for allegedly false remarks Dunn made to the board that no bar funds would be used to fund the January 2014 trip to Mongolia, which had sought California’s help on lawyer admission and discipline. Stacia Laguna, special deputy trial counsel administrator, said in an emailed statement the remaining charges “are serious offenses, and we look forward to presenting our evidence and prosecuting the remaining charges at the proper time.”

Geragos & Geragos APC and Pansky Markle Attorneys at Law represent Dunn.

The case is In Re Joseph Dunn, Cal. State Bar, No. SBC-22-O-30655, order 5/26/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carmen Castro-Pagán at

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