Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Washington State judges behaving badly – the database

by Matt Rosenberg October 24th, 2012

The Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct provides an easy-to-use online database of disciplinary cases involving judges behaving – or alleged to have been behaving – badly. You can slice and dice by geography, type of discipline administered, date, and more. Key is that each entry links to the actual case documents so that if warranted, social media users, bloggers, journalists, watchdogs and other stakeholders can link to or circulate them online. It should be noted up front that compared to the total volume of court proceedings in municipal, district, appeals and supreme courts in Washington state, and compared to the total number of judges on the bench in these courts, the overall number of sanctions is modest. Nonetheless they have added up over the years, and often involve serious lapses in, well, judgement; as well as violations of so-called judicial canons, or codes of conduct. Better we should have access to probe the details, than not. Let’s take a quick tour to see how the database works.

When you enter the database you’ll land at the case search tool, pre-set to return results for all cases from 1982 to the present. Just to get familiar with it, go right ahead and click on the “search” button, and when the results appear, click twice on the column header titled “Discipline Date.” This will give you a list of the disciplinary cases involving Washington state judges, from the most recent to the least recent.

In the left-hand column is a blue numerical link to the case documents for each proceedins. Click on one to get a “case summary” which has a link at the bottom leading to the documents (usually requiring one more click on a clearly-marked link).

To use the database in other ways, go back to the start page, and using the pull down menus, zero in on a sub-set of cases by type of disciplinary action, county, court level or date. You can choose variables in some or all of the different fields before you click on the “search” button. Right now, we’ll do a series of single-variable searches. Here are the results for cases that ended in resignation; here are cases involving judges who were working within King County; cases involving Washington Supreme Court justices; and cases from 2009 to date.

At the home page of its Web site, the Commission keeps a running list of links to its most recent decisions and also new statements of charges.

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