Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breaking News

A majority of the Washington State Supreme Court has held that one of its justices may not be defended or reimbursed for the costs of defending an ethics complaint:

Justice Richard Sanders seeks review of the Court of Appeals decision that the State has no duty to defend him or to reimburse him for attorney fees he incurred in defending himself before the Commission on Judicial Conduct.  At issue is whether the State is required to defend a judge who is alleged to have committed an ethics violation while otherwise within the purview of his or her official duties.  

We affirm the Court of Appeals, holding the State has no duty to defend when a judge knows or should know that the conduct of which he or she is accused is
unethical and therefore not an official act.

There are two dissents linked here and here. The web page of the very colorful justice is linked here.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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What a poorly reasoned majority opinion. There is no legal analysis whatsoever of the real issue here which is what "official duty" is. The majority's assumption that anything that is unethical cannot be official duty is clearly untenable. Compare this opinion to Flanagan, 240 Conn. 157, 690 A.2d 865 (1997), and the lack of legal reasoning is obvious. In my opinion, Flanagan draws a much more sensible line also (affair with court reporter not official duty). This is clearly a political and not a judicial opinion. The dissents must be read in this 5-4 case. They correctly take issue with the majority.

I think it is especially troubling that the Attorney General is able to bring the complaint at tax payer expense and then able to control the judge's purse strings.


Posted by: FixedWing | May 16, 2009 7:29:08 AM

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