CPUC Chief Administrative Law Judge Fired for “upholding rules”

Judge Clopton was terminated August 25 of 2017  The Honorable Karen Clopton, the highly respected Chief Administrative Law Judge at California’s scandal-plagued Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has been terminated for “upholding the rules” according to a formal complaint filedon September 19, 2017,  by Judge Clopton’s attorneys with the State of California Personnel Board. In addition, a complaint was filed in Superior Court seeking damages on December 18, 2017.  

While the allegations of racism are deeply disturbing, the allegations of corruption and judge-fixing within CPUC are equally troubling.

Ms. Clopton is claiming that CPUC has relatiated against her for upholding the rules of conduct for CPUC employees.  Here’s what the complaint outlines in terms of corruption:

a) She helped the criminal investigation into CPUC corruption 
The complaint states Judge Clopton cooperated fully with Federal and State prosecutors in the criminal investigation of corruption and judge-shopping at CPUC, although she did hire an attorney to represent her.

b)  She told her staff to cooperate with criminal  investigators 
She instructed all of the Administrative Law Judges on her staff to cooperate with the criminal investigations.

c) She asked Commissioners to refrain from Judge-Fixing
She asked the Commissioners at CPUC to avoid engaging in the ongoing and documented judge-shopping and judge-fixing at CPUC on behalf of the utilities CPUC is alleged to regulate.

d) She protested the appointment of overtly biased, pro-utility judges
She specifically urged the CPUC Executive Director, Timothy Sullivan to refuse to appoint Michael Colvin, a known utility toady, as an Administrative Law Judge.

d) She was criticized for calling a scandal a “scandal”
Clopton was chastised by a pro-utility judge for correctly referring to the deadly San Bruno gas line explosion and the Judge-shopping by former Commissioner Michel Florio that followed as a “scandal.”

e)  She was rebuked by corrupt political appointees
Powerful CPUC Commissioners (Commissioners are appointed by the Governor) rebuked Ms. Clopton for “upholding the rules” when she asked the Commissioners to refrain from engaging in judge-fixing on utility rate cases. Presumably, her critics pobably included disgraced Commissioners Florio and Peevey, and Judge Melanie Darling, who resigned several days after Public Watchdogs distributed a sworn criminal affidavit implicating Darling in the unlawful bailout of San Onofre at ratepayer expense.

f) The Commission hired a management hit-squad to discredit her
The CPUC then hired an outside management consultant to review Clopton’s performance on grounds that she was “bullying.”   Our take on this is that her “bullying” probably consisted of telling her staff to cooperate fully with the criminal investigations as required by law, and to avoid engaging in racist behaviors.

g) CPUC attempted to strip her of basic rights as a judge
Judges are generally granted immunity from being terminated. This helps ensure that the judges are not afraid of the powerful utilities they are supposed to regulate. In this case, the CPUC attempted to remove civil service protection from her specific title of Chief Administrative Law Judge.

What the Honorable Judge Clopton is seeking

Judge Clopton is seeking full reinstatement as Chief Administrative Law Judge, including back pay  and benefits.  She also wants her  personnel files be purged of derogatory remarks.

What may actually be going on …

Ms. Clopton’s requests for relief are relatively modest. Our best guess is that as a CPUC insider she has a wealth of dirt on the Commission that the CPUC does not want disclosed.  Her complaint focuses on widely documented corruption that is known to anyone who has followed the scandals at CPUC. It avoids presenting evidence of that corruption and appears to carefully omit any mention of additional scandals that she may be privy to.

During the inevitable closed-door negotiations with the CPUC’s attorneys, it is likely that she will use this information as a lever to negotiate a huge settlement payment, or to simply get herself reinstated as the Chief Administrative Law Judge.

One thing we do know:  Ms. Clopton is not necessarily a crusading reformer.  As a “whistleblower” she has failed to reveal any new criminal activity at CPUC.  She wants her job and benefits back, and the ability to “uphold the rules” at our corrupt CPUC without fear of having here career or reputation destroyed. of retribution. We wish her luck.


On August 14,  2017, Public Watchdogs wrote more than 1,000 Public Utilities Commission employees (Karen Clopton included)  and invited them to blow the whistle on the widely documented criminal activity at CPUC. You can read the letter here.

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