Clint Parish, a former Yolo County deputy district attorney, faces ethics charges by the California State Bar stemming from unsubstantiated accusations he levied against Dan Maguire last May during their spring campaign for Yolo Superior Court judge.
State Bar attorneys filed the charges Tuesday in State Bar Court in San Francisco. They allege Parish knowingly misrepresented Maguire, a sitting Superior Court judge, during the judicial race and knowingly used false and deceptive campaign materials.
If the allegations are proved true, Parish could face penalties that range from a reprimand to disbarment, said Robert Hawley, State Bar deputy executive director.
"This is a serious charge. The important message is to respect the system," Hawley said.
Those making false statements, he said, are "impugning the integrity of the judiciary as a whole."
The State Bar case focuses on campaign mailers Parish sent last May that sought to tie Maguire to corporate bribery while working for a Colorado law firm in the 1990s, and later to the controversial commutation of the prison sentence of Esteban Núñez, the son of political ally and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Esteban Núñez's sentence in 2011. He appointed Maguire, who was a member of Schwarzenegger's legal team for five years, to the Yolo County bench in 2010.
The State Bar complaint also alleges Parish falsely referred to himself as a judge and falsely claimed he had been endorsed by the Winters Police Department.
On Thursday, Parish and Maguire declined to comment.
Parish, an ex-prosecutor who ran on a law-and-order platform, was undone by the campaign claims against Maguire.
Those claims stunned and offended the Yolo bench and led a flood of Parish's endorsers to drop their support, including county Sheriff Ed Prieto, former state Senate GOP leader Jim Nielsen of Gerber and county District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
Parish, who left the district attorney's office Nov. 16, later fired the political operative who crafted the mailers, saying he himself never verified the claims against his challenger and that there was no evidence Maguire was involved in bribes.
The State Bar's disciplinary filing is rare. Just 28 such misconduct cases including the one against Parish have been filed by the bar since 2000, say State Bar officials. Of those, 21 cases were closed without an investigation.
The Parish case is one of only two since 2000 to proceed to a hearing, officials said.
Maguire went on to win election in June.
Editor's Note: This article was changed from a previous version to reflect the fact that Parish no longer works for the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. Corrected on Feb. 15, 2013.