A lawyer facing contempt charges after leaking to McClatchy confidential documents on family detention will seek forgiveness from a judge this morning.
New York lawyer Bryan Johnson will plead that he not be sanctioned after acknowledging that he violated a signed confidentiality agreement and released a copy of a proposed settlement drafted by lawyers for mothers detained by U.S. immigration officials.
He also leaked to McClatchy a copy of the court’s confidential draft ruling, which concluded that the Obama’s administration’s rapid increase of family detention centers violates parts of a 1997 settlement on migrant children
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California has threatened to hold him in contempt and reported to the State Bar of New York for twice violating the confidentiality agreement.
The Obama administration currently holds more than 1,800 parents and children awaiting court hearings in three family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas, and Berks County, Pa.
As a consultant to immigration attorneys negotiating with government officials, Johnson provided on-the-ground advice about the mothers detained inside the federal centers. He was terminated from the role after McClatchy published the draft ruling.
Johnson declined to discuss the potential contempt charges. At the time he released the documents, Johnson said he released the draft ruling because he felt ethically obligated to defend his clients’ rights under the law. He accused the government of intentionally delaying any resolution to avoid compliance with the 1997 settlement.
In court filings, Johnson said this month that he accepted full responsibility for his error in judgment, but that he was trying to help his clients.
“At the time, I believed that publicizing the events and the actions of the government was the only way to help my clients and others similarly situated,” he wrote. “But I was wrong.”
More than a dozen colleagues, mentors and professors of Johnson have urged the court in letters not to hold him in contempt. They describe the 30-year-old lawyer as a young and at times overzealous advocate for his clients. They said holding him in contempt would hurt him, but it would cause more harm to his clients who would be without his representation.