Segretti v. State Bar

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation126 Cal.Rptr. 793,544 P.2d 929,15 Cal.3d 878
Decision Date27 January 1976
Parties, 544 P.2d 929 Donald H. SEGRETTI, Petitioner, v. The STATE BAR of California, Respondent. In re Donald H. SEGRETTI on Discipline. L.A. 30423, L.A. 30424.

Page 793

126 Cal.Rptr. 793
15 Cal.3d 878, 544 P.2d 929
Donald H. SEGRETTI, Petitioner,
v.
The STATE BAR of California, Respondent.
In re Donald H. SEGRETTI on Discipline.
L.A. 30423, L.A. 30424.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Jan. 27, 1976.

[15 Cal.3d 881] Victor Sherman and Nasatir, Sherman & Hirsch, Beverly Hills, for petitioner.

Herbert M. Rosenthal and Stuart A. Forsyth, San Francisco, for respondent.

BY THE COURT.

In the instant two consolidated proceedings we review a recommendation of the Disciplinary Board of the State Bar of California that Donald H. Segretti be disciplined.

Page 794

[544 P.2d 930] Segretti, a 34-year-old attorney, was admitted to practice in 1967. In L.A. 30423 he was charged in a notice to show cause with, among other things, committing specified acts involving moral turpitude in connection with the 1972 campaign of Richard Nixon for reelection as President of the United States.

L.A. 30424 involves Segretti's conviction on two counts of violating 18 United States Code section 612 (publication or distribution of political statements) 1 and one count of violating 18 United States Code section 371 (conspiracy) by conspiring to violate section 612. In 1973 he pleaded guilty to the offenses and was sentenced to consecutive one-year prison terms, but execution of all except six months of the sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation for three years. No appeal was filed from the judgment. After our receipt of the record of [15 Cal.3d 882] conviction, we referred the matter to the State Bar for a hearing and report as to whether the facts and circumstances surrounding the offenses involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting discipline and, if so found, for a recommendation as to discipline.

The State Bar consolidated the two proceedings for hearing. The board determined that the facts and circumstances surrounding Segretti's conviction and apparently acts alleged in the notice to show cause and found to be true involved moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting discipline. The board recommended that discipline be imposed but was unable to agree on the extent of the discipline. 2

In May 1967, a few months after his admission to practice, Segretti was inducted into the Army. He served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps for over four years, including a year in Vietnam, and was honorably discharged in September 1971.

During the summer of 1971 Dwight Chapin and Gordon Strachan, who were members of President Nixon's staff and friends of Segretti, offered employment to Segretti after his Army discharge in connection with President Nixon's campaign for reelection. Chapin told Segretti that his duties would consist of pulling pranks on Democratic presidential aspirants and that the purpose of the activities was to foster a split among such aspirants so that it would be less likely that the party would unite behind the one finally receiving the nomination. Chapin also told Segretti that he should use a fictitious name when carrying out his duties in order to insulate himself from association with President Nixon's office in the event the activities came to public light. Segretti accepted the employment for a number of reasons including his favoring President Nixon's policy regarding ending the war in Vietnam. Segretti believed at that time that the mischievous acts he was to perform were in the nature of college pranks.

[15 Cal.3d 883] Later that summer, at the suggestion of Strachan or Chapin, Segretti met with Herbert Kalmbach, counsel to President

Page 795

[544 P.2d 931] Nixon, and Kalmbach and Segretti agreed that Segretti would work for a yearly salary of $16,000 plus expenses. Segretti thereafter in 1971 and 1972 received a total of about $45,000, including salary and expenses. At the time of his employment he felt privileged to be employed by persons connected with the White House.

After his discharge from the Army, Segretti recruited others to assist him in his new employment. He never received a clear outline of what he was to do, and he and his associates 'thought up over a beer or two' a number of the acts they committed.

For several months commencing about December 1971 Segretti and others conspired to violate section 612 and committed overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. Also during the period from about December 1971 to June 1972 Segretti committed the two section 612 violations and engaged in other misconduct. The most serious acts committed by him were:

Preparation and Distribution of Letters, Allegedly Written by Citizens for Muskie Committee, Falsely Accusing Senators Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson of Sexual Improprieties

Segretti, without authorization of the Citizens for Muskie Committee, wrote and caused to be distributed on the letterhead of that committee a letter accusing Senators Humphrey and Jackson of sexual improprieties. The accusations were false, as Segretti then knew. Senators Humphrey, Jackson, and Muskie were all candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.

Segretti testified that, when he wrote the letter, it was not his desire to have anyone believe the contents thereof and that instead he wanted to create confusion among the candidates. Upon later reexamination of the letter, he found it difficult to reconcile his expressed intent with the letter's contents.

The letter was Segretti's own idea. When he sent a copy to Chapin and told him it cost $20 to have the letter distributed, Chapin said that for the $20 Segretti received up to $20,000 free publicity. One of the section 612 violations and the conspiracy conviction involved this letter. 3

15 Cal.3d 884] Preparation and Distribution of News Release on Senator Humphrey's Stationery, Without His Consent, Containing False Allegations Regarding Mental Illness of Representative Shirley Chisholm

Segretti wrote and caused to be distributed on Senator Humphrey's stationery, without his consent, a news release alleging that Representative Chisholm once had been committed to a mental institution and was still under psychiatric care. The allegations were false, as Segretti then knew. Representative Chisholm was also a Democratic candidate.

According to Segretti, he did not intend anyone to believe the allegations bur wanted people to believe that the news release was distributed by Senator Humphrey. After Segretti sent Chapin a copy of the release, Chapin told Segretti that he laughed on reading it.

Letters Written on Stationery of Senator Eugene McCarthy, Without His Consent, Asking that McCarthy and Chisholm Delegates Switch Their Votes to Senator Humphrey

In his efforts to cause dissension among the Democratic candidates, Segretti had printed on the letterhead of Senator McCarthy, another Democratic presidential candidate, without his consent, letters suggesting that McCarthy and Chisholm delegates switch their votes to Humphrey. The letters purported to be signed by a worker in the McCarthy campaign. Segretti admitted that the signature was a forgery but did not indicate who signed the letter. He had a number of the letters distributed

Page 796

[544 P.2d 932] to certain McCarthy and Chisholm delegates. Some of the letters he mailed without postage so that they would be returned to the McCarthy headquarters and persons there would be aware of the letters.

Article in Los Angeles Newspaper Reproducing Bogus Letters

Segretti caused to be prepared and inserted in the May 26, 1972, Los Angeles Free Press a full page display, the heading of which read, 'Is Mayor Yorty Involved in a Plot to Sabotage McGovern.' The article contained the bogus switch vote letters hereinabove described and a letter on Mayor Yorty's campaign stationery falsely accusing Yorty of responsibility for the switch vote letters. The letter containing the false accusation was purportedly written by a disgusted Yorty supporter but was in fact Segretti's handiwork.

[15 Cal.3d 885

False Notices Regarding Free Lunch and Drinks at Certain Headquarters of Senators Humphrey and Muskie

Segretti caused notices to be released to the effect that free lunches and drinks would be distributed at certain headquarters of Senators Humphrey and Muskie at specified times. The notices were false and were intended by Segretti to cause confusion in the campaigns of those candidates.

Other Bogus Campaign Material

Segretti had printed and distributed other bogus campaign material. For example, he had printed and distributed (1) bumper stickers reading, 'Humphrey; he started the war; don't give him another chance. Democrats for Peace Candidate' and (2) posters reading, 'Help Muskie--Support Busing More Children Now. Mothers Backing Muskie Committee.' No such organizations existed, as Segretti then knew.

Miscellaneous

Segretti and an associate, ostensibly acting for Muskie organizers, ordered liquor and other items for the campaign workers. They also invited foreign guests to a Muskie fund raising dinner, provided for their delivery to the dinner by limousine, and hired a magician to entertain. The purpose of their actions was to cause confusion at the Muskie dinner.

Segretti collaborated with an associate regarding placing of stink bombs at a Muskie picnic and at Muskie headquarters. Segretti was later told that a stink bomb had been placed in Muskie's headquarters but did not know who placed it there.

The findings of the board and local committee set forth many of the above recited facts.

Immunity Issue

Segretti contends that his privilege against self-incrimination was violated when his immunized testimony was used at the State Bar proceedings. Transcripts of his testimony before the United States Senate's Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (hereafter[15 Cal.3d 886] called the Senate Watergate Committee) and at the trial in a criminal action against Dwight Chapin constituted a major part of the State Bar's evidence. Segretti testified before the Senate...

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84 practice notes
  • McComb v. Commission On Judicial Performance
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 2, 1977
    ...Cal.Rptr. 175, 520 P.2d 991; Wong v. State Bar (1975) 15 Cal.3d 528, 531, 125 Cal.Rptr. 482, 542 P.2d 642; Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929). Thus, an attorney who is the subject of a State Bar disciplinary proceeding does not have a right to ......
  • Nadrich, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 25, 1988
    ...rehabilitation. 3 At the hearing, petitioner expressed remorse and admitted the wrongfulness of his acts. (Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 888-889, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929; cf. In re Severo, supra, 41 Cal.3d at p. 504, 224 Cal.Rptr. 106, 714 P.2d 1244; Tarver v. State Ba......
  • Spielbauer v. County of Santa Clara, No. H029345.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 12, 2007
    ...may be invoked by a civil litigant [citation], it does not provide for protection against civil penalties"]; Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886-887, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929 [immunized testimony was properly considered in disciplinary proceedings against attorney].) Thus......
  • People v. Boyette, No. S032736.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 2, 2002
    ...thus made applicable to the states. (Malloy v. Hogan (1964) 378 U.S. 1, 8, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653: Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 6. The statements were admissible to impeach him if his trial testimony proved inconsistent with his testimo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
84 cases
  • McComb v. Commission On Judicial Performance
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 2, 1977
    ...Cal.Rptr. 175, 520 P.2d 991; Wong v. State Bar (1975) 15 Cal.3d 528, 531, 125 Cal.Rptr. 482, 542 P.2d 642; Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929). Thus, an attorney who is the subject of a State Bar disciplinary proceeding does not have a right to ......
  • Nadrich, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 25, 1988
    ...rehabilitation. 3 At the hearing, petitioner expressed remorse and admitted the wrongfulness of his acts. (Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 888-889, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929; cf. In re Severo, supra, 41 Cal.3d at p. 504, 224 Cal.Rptr. 106, 714 P.2d 1244; Tarver v. State Ba......
  • Spielbauer v. County of Santa Clara, No. H029345.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 12, 2007
    ...may be invoked by a civil litigant [citation], it does not provide for protection against civil penalties"]; Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886-887, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 929 [immunized testimony was properly considered in disciplinary proceedings against attorney].) Thus......
  • People v. Boyette, No. S032736.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 2, 2002
    ...thus made applicable to the states. (Malloy v. Hogan (1964) 378 U.S. 1, 8, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 12 L.Ed.2d 653: Segretti v. State Bar (1976) 15 Cal.3d 878, 886, 126 Cal.Rptr. 793, 544 P.2d 6. The statements were admissible to impeach him if his trial testimony proved inconsistent with his testimo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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