NAACP Chapter Head Quits Over Sterling Honor

Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:13 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The embattled head of the NAACP chapter that showered multiple honors on banned-for-life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling before reports of his racist comments emerged resigned Thursday.

"In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused the NAACP, I respectfully resign my position," Leon Jenkins wrote the civil rights organization.

The national NAACP said it is now "developing guidelines for its branches to help them in their award selection process."

Jenkins had planned to present Sterling with a "lifetime achievement award" later this month, but rescinded the offer after a recording surfaced on which Sterling scolded his girlfriend for associating with blacks.

The head of the Los Angeles NAACP chapter that's showered multiple awards on banned-for-life Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a defrocked judge who's forbidden to practice law in two states, reports said.

Jenkins' chapter of the civil rights organization gave Sterling its President's Award in 2008, its Humanitarian Award in 2009 — the same year Sterling paid $2.73 million to settle government claims he refused to rent his apartments to Latinos and blacks in Koreatown according to the Los Angeles Times.

The National Basketball Association Tuesday banned Sterling from the game for life and fined him $2.5 million for the racist comments.

But defending his chapter's awards to Sterling, Jenkins said Monday the group was reluctant to make decisions based on rumors.  "We deal with the actual character of the person as we see it and as it is displayed," he said.

The scandal triggered closer scrutiny of Jenkins, who is a defrocked judge forbidden to practice law in two states, according to records from California and Michigan, reports said.

His shady past was first reported Tuesday by Deadline Detroit and the Michigan Citizen.

The Times, citing records from the California Bar, reported Jenkins was indicted in 1988 on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud and racketeering charges after allegedly receiving gifts from those who appeared in his court, and committing perjury.

He was acquitted, but the Michigan Supreme Court kicked him off the bench in 1991 based on evidence he "systematically and routinely sold his office," including taking bribes to dismiss traffic tickets, accepting gifts from attorneys who appeared before him, and using his office to secure the release of a personal acquaintance without legal justification, Buzzfeed reported.

Legal and state bar records also show he lied about his home address to secure lower auto insurance premiums, solicited an individual to commit perjury during a federal investigation of his conduct, and engaged in improper private conversations with counsel during the course of trials, Buzz Feed reported.

In 1994, Jenkins was disbarred in Michigan, and in 2001, California, where Jenkins had been practicing law as a plaintiff’s lawyer and civil rights attorney since 1991,  followed suit because of his misconduct in Michigan, the reports said.

He's been rejected for reinstatement in the California Bar in both 2006 and 2012, when the bar questioned whether he had the "moral fitness to resume the practice of law," according to records, the Times said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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