The Commisson posts the most pertinent documents for each case on this website, inluding Commission decisions, statements of charges, answers to statements of charges, exhibits, and/or supreme court decisions. Other public document may exist and are available upon request.
To view public cases that are currently open, see the Open Cases section of this website.
CJC No. 10535-F-194
May 31, 2022
From an agreed statement of facts, Cowlitz County District Court Judge Debra Burchett stipulated that she violated Canon 1, Rules 1.1 and 1.2, and Canon 2, Rules 2.2, 2.3(A), 2.4(B), 2.5(A), and 2.6(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The stipulation was entered after a Statement of Charges had been filed, and Judge Burchett agreed to a portion of the charges in exchange for a stated discipline. Judge Burchett violated the Code by going off the record during a hearing on a traffic infraction, without giving a reason and dismissing the case, again without giving a reason, when she returned on the record; and by awarding a counterclaim in a case where the defendants had not filed one. The Commission, noting that the judge had been sanctioned the previous year, censured Judge Burchett and recommended a ten-day suspension from office. Judge Burchett also agreed she will not seek reelection at the end of her term nor hold future judicial office without Commission approval. She is required to review the Code of Judicial Conduct within thirty days. The State Supreme Court approved the stipulation and imposed a ten-day suspension without pay.
CJC No. 9608-F-189
February 5, 2021
The Commission conducted a public hearing on allegations that Judge David Keenan of the King County Superior Court violated Canon 1, Rules 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 by appearing in a bus advertisement for North Seattle College which used his judicial title. The Commission found that he created the appearance of impropriety by approving language in the ad which could lead a reasonable person to conclude he lacked impartiality. The Commission also found that by allowing the ad to use his title and photograph, he abused the prestige of judicial office to promote the college and advance its economic interests. The Commission admonished Judge Keenan. The State Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s findings and dismissed (see below).
CJC No. 5198-F-136
April 10, 2009
The Commission conducted a public hearing on allegations that Judge Judith Eiler of the King County District Court violated Canons 1, 2(A), 3(A)(3), and 3(A)(4) by engaging in a clear, ongoing pattern and practice of impatient, undignified and discourteous conduct of the Respondent towards litigants, especially self-represented litigants, witnesses, attorneys, court personnel and others with whom Judge Eiler dealt in her official capacity within the courtroom. The Commission found that the misconduct occurred and was compounded by the fact that Respondent was previously reprimanded by the Commission for similar behavior (in CJC 4148-F-116). The Commission censured Judge Eiler and recommended to the Washington State Supreme Court that she be suspended from office for ninety days without pay. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's findings but imposed a five-day suspension.
CJC No. 5863-F-142
May 14, 2010
The Commission accepted a stipulation by former Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht and disciplinary counsel that the former judge had been charged, convicted and sentenced in Pierce County Superior Court to one count of Patronizing a Prostitute and one count of felony Harassment, and that those convictions constituted a violation of Canons 1 and 2(A). The Commission panel further considered briefing of the parties in considering a sanction for the violations, and concluded that censure was clearly warranted. The panel found: "The salacious and severe nature of Respondent's criminal conduct has brought great dishonor to the judiciary of this state." Noting that Respondent has previously resigned his judicial office, the panel recommended to the Supreme Court that it disqualify Respondent from future judicial office in addition to the sanction of censure. The State Supreme Court approved the Commission's decision and disqualified Judge Hecht from future judicial office.
CJC No. 4072-F-109
April 8, 2005
State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders visited the Special Commitment Center for sexually violent predators and met with residents there. In April 2004, the Commission filed a Statement of Charges. The Commission affirmed its approval of institutional visits in general, but alleged that in connection with his interaction with residents, Justice Sanders created the appearance of impropriety, in violation of Canons 1 and 2. The Statement of Charges also alleged the justice violated Canon 3(A)(4) by initiating ex parte conversations with residents who had cases pending before the State Supreme Court. It was alleged, among other things, that Justice Sanders accepted documents from two residents and initiated conversations with residents about the issue of "volitional control," which was then pending in litigation before the Court.
After a fact-finding hearing in December of 2004, a majority of the hearing panel found Justice Sanders created the appearance of impropriety by his actions, in violation of Canons 1 and 2(A). The panel did not find that he violated Canon 3(A)(4). The Commission admonished the justice and encouraged him to "exercise utmost caution in considering his involvement in matters concerning the issue of volitional control presented by sexual predators residing at the Special Commitment Center." A minority decision agreed Justice Sanders had violated Canons 1 and 2(A), but concluded no sanction was warranted. Two other members of the panel dissented, concluding no violation was committed. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision.
CJC No. 4475-F-119
May 5, 2006
The Commission conducted a public hearing on allegations that Judge Mary Ann Ottinger of the King County District Court violated Canons 1, 2(A), and 3(A)(1) by routinely failing to adequately advise unrepresented criminal defendants of their constitutional due process rights. The Commission found that the misconduct occurred and was compounded by the fact that Respondent was previously censured by the Commission for similar behavior (CJC 3811-F-110). The Commission censured Judge Ottinger and recommended to the Washington State Supreme Court that she be suspended from office for thirty days without pay. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision and suspended Judge Ottinger for thirty days.
CJC No. 2969-F-92
July 15, 2002
After a fact-finding hearing conducted in Yakima, the Commission found clear, cogent and convincing evidence that Sunnyside Municipal Court Judge Steven L. Michels engaged in a pattern and practice of presiding as a judge pro tempore in Toppenish Municipal Court in cases in which he was also appointed defense counsel. The Commission identified at least a dozen instances in which Judge Michels took substantive, discretionary actions where he was the attorney of record and the judge in the same case.
After the hearing, the Commission also found clear, cogent and convincing evidence that Judge Michels engaged in a pattern and practice of violating Court Rule CrRLJ 4.2 regarding guilty plea forms when a defendant pled guilty. The content of the form is dictated by the constitutional requirement that guilty pleas be knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily made. A judge has a duty to ensure that a guilty plea is constitutionally valid. The Commission identified eight occurrences in Toppenish Municipal Court where as judge pro tempore, Judge Michels neither used an adequate form nor orally advised defendants of their constitutional rights. The Commission noted that the forms used in Judge Michels' own court in Sunnyside also were not in compliance with the court rule.
The Commission concluded that Judge Michels violated Canons 1, 2 and 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 1 directs judges to maintain and enforce high standards of judicial conduct. Canon 2(A) requires judges to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Canon 3(A) requires judges to be faithful to the law and to maintain professional competence in it. Canon 3(D) requires judges to disqualify themselves in cases where they had previously served as a lawyer.
The Commission considered ten non-exclusive factors to establish an appropriate discipline for Judge Michels' misconduct. Among the factors considered, the Commission noted that Judge Michels' misconduct was not an isolated event, but a part of a pattern of conduct; the misconduct occurred on numerous occasions; the misconduct was acknowledged by the time of the public hearing, although Judge Michels had denied it a number of times earlier officially and in his public statements; Judge Michels no longer serves as judge pro tem in Toppenish; and his misconduct created a detrimental effect on the integrity of and respect for the judiciary.
The Commission censured Judge Michels and recommended to the Supreme Court that he be suspended from judicial office for 120 days and that he complete a course of education before he resumes judicial office. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision and suspended Judge Michels for 120 days without pay.
CJC No. 3842-F-101
November 22, 2002
In a case filed earlier in the year, CJC No. 3754-F-99, Yakima County Superior Court Judge Heather K. Van Nuys agreed she unduly delayed filing decisions in two civil cases covering the time period of September 25, 1997 to April 29, 2002. After the Commission's action became public, the Commission received a new complaint and began an investigation that resulted in case CJC No. 3842-F-101.
Investigation of the new allegations revealed evidence of at least twelve other cases of late decisions, in addition to the cases referenced in CJC No. 3574-F-99, going back as far as 1994. Judge Van Nuys stipulated that each month during that time she filed documents titled "Affidavit for Payment of Salary for Superior Court Judges." The affidavits stated that she was in compliance with the laws requiring timely decision making for superior court judges. Judge Van Nuys admitted she signed at least 55 such affidavits, even though her decisions were not timely. She agreed that statements contained in the affidavits were not true and that she should not have signed or submitted them and that the signing of such declarations by a judge is a serious violation of judicial ethics and of her responsibility to be truthful as a judge.
The Commission and Judge Van Nuys agreed that if a hearing were held, evidence would be produced that could establish that Judge Van Nuys violated several provisions of Canons 1, 2 and 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Based on the stipulation, the Commission censured Judge Van Nuys and recommended to the Supreme Court that she be suspended from judicial duties for two months and she complete other remedial measures. The State Supreme Court approved the stipulation and suspended Judge Van Nuys for two months without pay.
CJC No. 2699-F-81
August 21, 2000
On December 16, 1999, the Commission filed a Statement of Charges alleging that Judge Rudolph J. Tollefson of the Pierce County Superior Court violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by using intemperate and abusive language and behavior towards court staff and another judge; engaging in improper conduct by entering ex parte orders when he was a district court judge; engaging in ex parte contacts and failing to maintain his impartiality in a child custody matter pending before him; including undertaking an ex parte investigation outside the courtroom; and failing to maintain, enforce, and observe high standards of judicial conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary would be preserved.
Judge Tollefson agreed that there was sufficient evidence to establish his described conduct and that such conduct violated Canons 1, 2 (A), 2 (B), 3 (A)(1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7), 3 (B)(1), 3 (B)(3), and 3 (D)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The judge agreed to a censure, to take a course in judicial ethics, and to participate in anger management therapy. The judge further agreed to a five-month suspension without pay. The State Supreme Court approved the stipulation and suspended Judge Tollefson for five months without pay.
CJC No. 2911-F-80
February 4, 2000
The Commission and Judge James A. Bates, Jr. of the King County Superior Court stipulated that the judge had maintained a sexual relationship and lived with a court employee under his direct daily supervision for about six years during the mid-1980's. The parties stipulated that, although the judge would have produced evidence to the contrary at a hearing, evidence would show that the judge had made comments of a sexual nature at work that were not work-related with two additional subordinate employees. The judge agreed that the conduct described would support a determination that he violated Canons 1, 2(A), 2(B), and 3(A)(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The judge agreed to a censure and to take a course in sensitivity training. The judge further agreed to a one-month suspension.
In agreeing to the sanction, the Commission took into account the judge's long term of service; the absence of prior disciplinary actions; the passage of time since the events; the judge's recognition that he should not have acted as he did; that the conduct did not occur in public and did not impact his action in court cases; and other mitigating factors. The State Supreme Court dismissed the stipulated recommendation to suspend the judge as moot following Judge Bates' passing.
CJC No. 1937-F-67
August 7, 1998
The Commission conducted a hearing on allegations of misconduct by Judge A. Eugene Hammermaster, Judge of the Sumner, Orting, Wilkeson, and South Prairie Municipal Courts in Pierce County. The Commission found that Judge Hammermaster violated Canons 2(A), 3(A)(1) and 3(A)(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct by exhibiting patterns of conduct involving failure to respect and comply with the law, disrespectful and undignified conduct, and violations of fundamental procedural rights of criminal defendants. The Commission censured the judge and recommended to the Washington State Supreme Court that Judge Hammermaster be suspended from office for 30 days without pay. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's findings, found an additional violation of Canon 3(A)(3), and imposed a six-month suspension.
CJC No. 2179-F-64
April 3, 1998
The Commission conducted a hearing on allegations of misconduct by Pierce County Superior Court Judge Grant L. Anderson. Following a hearing, the Commission found that the judge received undisclosed payments from a purchaser of assets from an estate for which he was a fiduciary, failed to report the receipt of the payments on his public disclosure filings, and served as a corporate officer after becoming a superior court judge. The Commission found that Judge Anderson violated Canons 1, 2(A), 5(C)(3) and 6(C) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission censured the judge and recommended to the Washington State Supreme Court that he be suspended from office for a period of four months without pay. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's findings, ordered Judge Anderson removed from office, and vacated the Commission's order of corrective action.
CJC No. 2451-F-66
March 5, 1998
The Commission conducted a hearing on allegations that Judge Ralph G. Turco of the Tacoma Municipal Court assaulted his spouse while attending a church function. The Commission found that Judge Turco's intentional assault of his wife violated Canons 1 and 2(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission censured Judge Turco and recommended to the Washington State Supreme Court that he be removed from office. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's findings, but suspended Judge Turco without pay for the balance of his term office and ordered him to complete a domestic violence program before serving in any judicial capacity.
CJC No. 2173-F-63
May 12, 1997
The Commission conducted a hearing concerning allegations of misconduct by a justice of the Washington Supreme Court. The Commission found the respondent appeared at a political rally identified as a justice, carried a pro-life symbol and aligned himself with an organization pursuing a political agenda. The Commission concluded that the justice violated Canons 1, 2(B) and 7(A)(5) of the Code of Judicial Conduct in the manner and context in which he made his statement. The Commission reprimanded the justice. The State Supreme Court reversed the Commission's decision.
CJC No. 1445-F-46
October 7, 1994
The Commission censured and disqualified from future service as a judicial officer a former pro tem judge for misconduct with a minor. The former pro tem judge had picked up a twelve-year old while the minor was hitchhiking, taken the minor to his house overnight, and dropped the minor off by the side of the road the next morning. The Commission found that the conduct was serious, involving a judicial officer appearing to take advantage of a naive twelve-year old in circumstances where the child was vulnerable. The Commission also found that the former pro tem judge had demonstrated an absence of ability to supervise the youth although he possessed full knowledge of resources available in the county, noting that the youth appeared to have the run of the house over the former pro tem judge's ineffective objection or with his tacit approval. The Commission found that the former pro tem judge's statement to the minor that he did not have any rubbers as an excuse not to engage in anal intercourse was inappropriate to a naive boy. Noting that hitchhiking is an illegal activity, the Commission also found that the judge had given the minor a cardboard sign to facilitate his hitchhiking.
The Commission dismissed two other charges based on incidents that occurred before the former pro tem judge had performed judicial functions. However, the Commission stated that the incidents could be considered for probative value and determining the sanction. One of the incidents also involved picking up a minor. In the third incident, the former pro tem judge had intimidated an individual who owed him money. The Commission concluded that these incidents demonstrated that the former pro tem judge's conduct was not an isolated event but part of a pattern of conduct involving individuals in vulnerable positions that bears on his fitness to perform judicial functions. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision and removed Judge Hatter from office.
CJC No. 1110-F-33
August 6, 1993
The Commission censured a judge for making improper claims for travel reimbursement and improperly using county phones for personal long distance calls and recommended to the Washington Supreme Court that the judge be removed. There were five trips, one each year from 1987 through 1991, four to Florida, one to Arizona. The judge was reimbursed approximately $2,750. The Commission found that travel vouchers submitted by the judge in connection with the trips contained false and misleading statements concerning the nature, purpose, duration, and benefit of the court-related business allegedly conducted during the trips. The Commission also found that the judicial business that the judge contended that he conducted on the trips was incidental and insignificant to the main purpose of the trips, which was personal, and that the evidence most favorable to the judge suggested that he would occasionally meet for lunch or dinner with a Florida judge who was a close personal friend and business associate.
The Commission also concluded that judge's length of service and purported competence were minimized as mitigating conditions given the duration and nature of his misconduct; that the misconduct was extremely serious, involving dishonesty and conversion of public funds; and that, although none of the judge's misconduct was manifested through courtroom activities, all of it occurred in his official capacity. Noting that the high performance ratings garnered by the judge underscored the insidiousness of the misconduct, the Commission stated that sustained and relatively furtive misconduct, once discovered, not only taints the reputation of the offending judge, but also the system that had neglected to identify and rectify the situation in a timely fashion. Noting that only through much searching and effort was the Commission able to ascertain the facts, the Commission also concluded that there was nothing to indicate that the judge had acknowledged or recognized anything wrongful and that, other than the judge's reimbursement for phone calls after initiation of the proceedings, there was little to indicate whether the judge would refrain from similar conduct in the future. The Commission also ordered as corrective action that the judge make full restitution to the county within 30 days for the travel expenses and the personal long distance telephone charges. Two members of the Commission would have recommended censure with a 60 to 90 day suspension rather than removal from office. One member would have limited the sanction to censure with corrective action. The State Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision and removed Judge Ritchie from office.
CJC No. 1474-F-42
October 21, 1993
In a stipulation and agreement between the Commission and a judge who had twice intentionally struck and caused bodily harm to his then-spouse and entered a plea of guilty to two counts of assault, the judge agreed and stipulated to resign and terminate his judicial duties no later than December 1, 1993. He also agreed not to seek or serve in any judicial office in Washington unless the Supreme Court granted a petition for reinstatement of eligibility. The State Supreme Court affirmed the stipulation.
CJC No. 1182-F-29
September 13, 1993
The Commission publicly censured a judge and recommended that he be suspended for 30 days without pay.
(1) The judge had asked his clerk during her job interview in 1988 with whom she associated in the clerk's office and what she thought of women's lib.
(2) After becoming annoyed with what he considered to be clutter on his clerk's desk, the judge on several occasions removed files from the desk and deposited them under her desk or in garbage cans or drawers, making it necessary for her to collect and reorganize her files before she could proceed with her work.
(3) The judge had called his clerk a "slut" at numerous times in the presence of her co-workers while at work (for example, he would say "It's time for court, slut").
(4) The judge had referred to another judge's clerk as "bitch" even after she asked him not to.
(5) After discovering that his clerk was upset over the possible loss of her dog, the judge taunted her to the point of tears by portraying a gruesome scene of discovering a beloved pet dead in the street and saying "Doggie, doggie, doggie" or "bow wow wow," or "Arf, arf, arf."
(6) The judge had taunted another judge's clerk with a spider until she became hysterical.
(7) In the presence of female court personnel, in or about the courthouse, the judge had referred to two fellow judges, respectively as "Big Dick" and "bastard" and told his clerk that a female employee of another department was a "cunt."
(8) In 1979 or 1980, the judge had told a female attorney in his chambers (referring to two women who had appeared at a hearing in halter tops), "God, those nipples. I just love summertime, because you can see those nipples when the air conditioning is on" and advised the attorney that lawyers should not show their nipples, that he did not want to see her nipples, and that she should always wear a bra. On a second occasion, the judge had told the same female lawyer that he thought she was crabby, that she should "get laid," and that he had a single friend she could go out with.
(9) The judge had told his clerk after he learned that she had been invited by a lawyer to a Rotary luncheon, "You can't go, you have to be a doctor or a lawyer or a judge or a somebody, you can't be a nothing. You have to be a somebody. If they let you go, next they'd have to let a goddamn waitress go."
(10) One evening when his clerk was leaving, the judge had said "See you tomorrow. Now go get fucked."
(11) The judge had frequently gestured obscenely at his clerk with his finger, at times when she was with other female clerks.
(12) The judge had filed a small claims matter in his own court although he could have brought it elsewhere; his signature appeared as the judge on the notification of default to defendant because he was the presiding judge at the time and the signature was applied by a rubber stamp.
(13) The judge had used court staff time, equipment and/or supplies to get a pumpkin from a farm one Halloween, to do his personal correspondence; to conduct a search to learn the latest T-bill rates on one occasion; to arrange for him and his relatives to attend the races on one occasion; and to attend to his personal travel on at least one occasion.
(14) On the individual county telephone line installed in his office, the judge had placed numerous personal, long distance calls, which were charged to and paid by the county and not reimbursed by the judge.
(15) The judge had interrogated a court secretary after the Commission investigator met with her and, after she reported this event to the investigator, the judge had asked her about the nature of the information conveyed to the investigator.
(16) The judge had attempted to interfere with the Commission's investigator by directing a court secretary to destroy evidence on the court computer that related to his personal correspondence.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the Commission concluded that
(1) the judge's misconduct was not isolated but clearly part of a pattern of misconduct,
(2) the judge's misconduct was demeaning to court personnel, primarily female and primarily working in subordinate positions to the judge and at times was clearly cruel,
(3) the judge's misconduct occurred outside the courtroom but always in and about the courthouse during the work day,
(4) the judge's misconduct occurred in his official capacity as opposed to his private capacity,
(5) while the judge now acknowledges some of his misconduct, it appears that his acknowledgement came only as a result of the discipline proceedings,
(6) there is no evidence that the judge has made any effort to change or modify his conduct, and, although his testimony during the hearing indicated a limited awareness and desire to change, the judge did not appear contrite before the Commission,
(7) the judge had served in his capacity as district court judge for 14 years,
(8) there have been prior complaints against the judge, none of which resulted in a finding of probable cause,
(9) there has been a substantial and materially adverse effect on the integrity of and respect for the judiciary, e.g., court personnel were aware of the judge's misuse for personal benefit of county-provided property, equipment, and personnel; court personnel and others were aware of the judge's demeaning and derogatory comments and treatment of others, showing little or no respect for their feelings; court personnel and others were aware of the judge's derogatory and demeaning comments and treatment of females and subordinate staff; and court personnel were aware of the disrespect the judge has shown for another county official and other judges, and
(10) the judge exploited his position to satisfy his personal desires, requiring court personnel to conduct his personal private business and run personal private errands for him.
In addition to censuring the judge and recommending that the Washington Supreme Court suspend him for 30 days without pay, the Commission ordered the judge to take the following corrective action:
(1) cease and desist from making disparaging or embarrassing comments while in the performance of his official duties in and about the courthouse, whether or not such comments are intended by him as jokes;
(2) take no retaliation, directly or indirectly, against witnesses or other persons who cooperated with the Commission in its investigation and proceeding;
(3) attend, participate, and complete courses selected by the Commission concerning judicial conduct pertinent to behavior exhibited by the judge at the National Judicial College within one year at his own time and expense;
(4) within 60 days after completing the courses, develop and propose rules to the other judges of his court that shall include rules to improve the working environment and a meaningful method for complaints to be dealt with, and for true accountability;
(5) cause an accounting, at his own expense, of the value of court resources appropriated by him for his personal use and tender the amount to the county commissioners at a regular public meeting; and
(6) cooperate with the Commission monitoring of his compliance with the order.
One Commission member filed a concurring and dissenting opinion. That member argued that the findings relating to the clerk's job interview in 1988 and to the comments to the female attorney had not been in the statement of charges and so could not be the basis of discipline (three other members concurred as to the job interview finding) and that the comments to the female attorney may have taken place before the adoption of the state constitutional amendment in November 1980 creating the Commission and so could not be the basis of discipline. The member dissented from the finding that the judge did not appear contrite and argued that the Commission should not hold a person's lack of contrition against him or her. Dissenting from the finding that the judge's conduct undermines the public confidence in the administration of justice, the member noted that all of the misconduct occurred outside the courtroom and there was no finding much less evidence that the public as opposed to the employees of the court lacked confidence in the judge.
The member agreed that the judge had committed misconduct in the use of court resources and by making inappropriate comments and gestures to some members of the court staff and that the judge should be censured and required to take corrective action. Dissenting as to recommendation of suspension, however, the member stated that the incidents regarding use of court resources were isolated and trifling and that making telephone calls that were long distance was inadvertent. With respect to the judge's conduct toward court staff, the member stated that the behavior did not result from any venal motive but from his misguided effort to be humorous or a feeling that he wanted to treat his employees "like one of the guys." Concluding that the judge was not a lost cause, that member noted statements from his testimony such as "Things have changed, there's been -- in recent years there's a change, this talk of sexual harassment, there's -- what was acceptable a year ago or two years ago isn't acceptable anymore. . . . I'm more tuned in with it frankly." The dissenting member noted that no witness testified that the judge was inefficient in the performance of his duties or that he was less than judicious on the bench. The State Supreme Court affirmed the stipulation to censure and accept Judge Moilanen's resignation.
CJC No. 981-F-22
June 25, 1991
The Commission admonished a judge who, in August 1990, during his campaign for re election, placed or caused to be placed a campaign sign and campaign literature in both the Democratic and Republican booths at a county fair, who could be seen inside each booth at various times during the fair, and who paid the county Democratic party $65 for his use of the Democratic booth at the fair, which was used by the party to help defray the costs of the booth in its partisan political interests.
The Commission found that by campaigning from within a political party's booth, posting his signs in the Democratic and Republican Party booths and placing his campaign literature in the booths, the judge gave the impression either that he was running as a Democrat, or enjoyed the support of the Democratic Party, or that he was running as a Republican with Republican Party support, or at best, that he was running a bipartisan not a non partisan campaign for judicial office, in violation of Canon 7B. The Commission also found that the money paid by the judge to the Democratic Party for the use of its booth was an assessment by or a contribution to a political party, which is prohibited by the Code. One Commission member concurred on the finding with respect to the fee paid to the Democratic Party but dissented from the finding with respect to the judge's placing literature in both parties' booths on the ground that "the simultaneous display of identical campaign material by a non partisan candidate in each booth of the competing political parties in essentially the same location can hardly suggest membership in either party." The State Supreme Court reversed the Commission decision and dismissed the case.
CJC No. 953-F-20
January 4, 1991
The Commission publicly censured a pro tempore judge who had served on a county superior court for ninety two days in 1990 while also serving as a senator in the state legislature. The Commission found that the senate committees on which the judge served (the law and justice committee and the ways and means committee) had substantial responsibilities in enacting laws and regulating the courts and the judicial system. The Commission concluded that the dual service could cause substantial concerns on the part of the public about the judge's integrity and independence and could seriously affect public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The Commission also held that the judge's activities as a partisan member of the state legislature constitute partisan political activity prohibited to a judge. The Commission noted that the Code of Judicial Conduct clearly states that judges pro tempore are not exempted from the provisions of the Code except in those situations specifically set forth in its Preamble. The Commission also stated that the separation of the branches of government is improperly eroded by the necessity of a legislator appearing before the Commission to receive a reprimand or censure as a judge. Noting the judge's offer to recuse herself from any matters in the senate committees that concern the Commission, the Commission stated that the judge had been elected to serve the citizens of the district and should continue to do so and that the offer to recuse tacitly acknowledged the inherent conflict of interest. In response to the judge's argument that legislators should be permitted to serve as judges pro tempore because of a shortage of elected judges and a backlog of untried cases, the Commission held that expedience should not reign over ethics.
Stating that it is an administrative body, the Commission concluded that it had no constitutional or statutory authority to determine the constitutionality of specific canons. Noting that on July 14, 1986, the Ethics Advisory Committee had issued an opinion stating that a member of the state legislature should not sit as a pro tempore judge, the Commission concluded that the judge's service as a pro tempore judge after notice of the advisory opinion and from the Commission, was, while not egregious conduct, greater than a minor violation. The Commission specified as a corrective course of action that the judge could no longer serve as a judge pro tempore until she is no longer a member of the legislature. Four (of ten) commissioners disagreed with the sanction (but not the corrective course of action), stating that the judge's conduct did not fall to the level of a censure, but that a reprimand was the proper sanction. The State Supreme Court reversed the Commission's decision and dismissed the case.
CJC No. 658-F-11
April 13, 1989
Rejecting the recommendation of the Commission, the Supreme Court refused to admonish an appointed, part time municipal court judge for attending a local caucus and a county caucus for the Democratic Party and being chosen as a delegate. The Court concluded that, as a delegate controlling the proxy of party members, the judge wielded influence at the party convention and acted as a leader in a political party. The Court rejected the judge's argument that the term "leader" in Canon 7 was unconstitutionally vague noting that Canon 7(A)(1) prohibits attendance at political gatherings, the Court stated it would be reasonable for a person of ordinary intelligence to conclude that taking an additional, active role by standing for election as a delegate is prohibited. The Court also held that Canon 7 applies to appointed as well as elected judges. But the Court concluded that no sanction was necessary. The Court noted that the challenged activities took place during a single election, were limited to attendance at a precinct caucus and a county convention, and were solely for the purpose of participating in the selection of a presidential nominee.
The Court also found that there was no reason to believe that the judge would attend partisan conventions in the future, noting that as soon as the judge had received notice of the charges, he had refrained from attending the district and state conventions and that under Washington's new presidential primary election law, in the future, the judge would cast his vote for a presidential nominee by secret ballot. The Court also stated that no prior complaints had been made against the judge. Finally, the Court found that there was no indication that the judge's activity influenced his behavior on the bench or that the judge was exploiting his position to satisfy his personal desires. The Court noted the Commission's finding that the judge had acted with a good faith belief that he was exercising his constitutional rights. The Court found that there was no reason to address the judge's argument that the prohibition violated the state and federal constitutions because the Court lifted the admonishment and because the state's adoption of a presidential primary system had rendered the issues moot. The State Supreme Court affirmed the finding but imposed no sanction.
CJC No. 515-F-10
August 27, 1987
A judge violated Canons 1, 2(A) and 7 when he made campaign statements stating his party affiliation, his pledge of partial treatment of DWI defendants, and his suggestion that DWI defense attorneys could buy favorable treatment for their clients. Censure imposed. The State Supreme Court adopted the Commission’s recommendation to censure.
CJC No. 386-F-8
January 10, 1986
In the first public hearing in Commission history, the Commission considered misconduct allegations against Judge Mark S. Deming of the Pierce County District Court, and found that he violated Canons 1, 2(A), 2(B) and 3(A)(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission determined that the respondent engaged in an improper personal relationship with a probation department employee which adversely impacted the administration of the court; that he frequently made inappropriate and injudicious statements both on and off the bench; and, that he sexually harassed female court personnel. The Commission recommended to the Supreme Court that Judge Deming be removed from office.
Judge Deming appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court, which conducted a de novo review of the Commission's findings and recommended sanction. The court held that Judge Deming violated Canons 1, 2(A), 2(B), 3(A)(3), 3(B)(1) and 3(C)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct by engaging in an improper personal relationship with a probation department employee and by engaging in repeated instances of sexual harassment against court personnel both on and off the bench. The supreme court rejected respondent's arguments that his public hearing was unconstitutional; that his due process rights were violated; and, that the combination of adjudicative, investigatory and prosecutorial functions created the appearance of unfairness. The supreme court affirmed Judge Deming's disqualification from office and, had he not resigned his position, removal. This is the case in which the court set forth aggravating and mitigating factors to be considered in imposing sanctions for judicial misconduct. The State Supreme Court affirmed and removed Judge Deming from office.
CJC No. 320-F-7
August 5, 1985
Superior Court Judge Fred Staples circulated petitions, made campaign speeches, organized a committee, and ran ads in the local papers in support of a proposed constitutional amendment transferring the county seat from one city to another nearby.
The [Judicial Qualifications] Commission took disciplinary action against Judge Staples for violating Canon 7(A)(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and by 4-3 vote recommended admonishment to the Washington Supreme Court.
HOLDINGS: (A) Traditional policy considerations behind the Code of Judicial Conduct's general prohibition on judges' participation in political activity are not appropriate. It was never alleged that Judge Staples' activities were so extensive as to impair his primary judicial obligations. Because Judge Staples' political activity was civic-minded rather than partisan, fears of actual bias or the appearance of issue prejudgment were not of concern here. Finally, civic-minded political activity would not, as a rule, diminish the dignity and esteem of the Court.
(B) Canon 7(A)(4) specifically allows judges to conduct political activity designed to better the administration of justice in recognition of the judges' central role on legal reform. Exclusion of judges from legal reform processes could deprive the processes of a wealth of expertise. Furthermore, a judge does not lose his rights as a citizen by assuming the bench.
DISPOSITION: Commission recommendation of admonishment refused; charge filed against Judge Staples dismissed. The State Supreme Court reversed the Commission's decision and dismissed the case.
CJC No. 26-F-2
October 28, 1982
Judge Buchanan served in the county district court and in the municipal court, but did not seek reelection in 1982, and subsequently retired from both offices. While in office, the judge instructed his staff not to cooperate with one attorney whom he referred to as "a little, rich Jew kid". The judge also disrupted the courtroom proceedings of a pro tempore judge by arguing with and pushing an attorney appearing before the pro tempore judge. He also was occasionally loud and abusive towards members of his staff. Apart from his public displays of temper, he generally acted in an undignified manner when dealing with women employees, freely commented about the size of a court employee's breasts, on one occasion hugged and kissed a clerk in an offensive, embarrassing manner and asked personal, irrelevant questions of female job applicants. He also fired two female employees who testified against him before the commission. The commission recommended that he be publicly censured. The State Supreme Court adopted the Commission's recommendation to censure.