Hearing on Judge Wulle's alleged violations set for June

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A public hearing to determine whether Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle violated codes of conduct is set to begin June 18 at the Clark County Courthouse, a state judicial board official said Wednesday.

A panel of board members of the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct will hear testimony for two days at the courthouse in downtown Vancouver, starting at 9 a.m.

The judicial board in February issued a statement of charges, which accused Wulle of failing to maintain courtroom decorum and engaging “in a pattern of discourteous, impatient and undignified behavior.” The charges relate to four court hearings over the past three years.

Wulle’s hearing is open to the public. It will be similar to a trial, with attorneys calling witnesses and making opening and closing arguments.

The board members, as many as nine, will deliberate afterward. Instead of announcing a verdict, the judicial board will issue written opinions at a later date as to whether Wulle is guilty of violating the codes. If he is found guilty, the board will make a recommendation as to how he should be disciplined.

Potential sanctions range from an admonishment, or written warning, to a censure with a recommendation to the state Supreme Court for the judge’s suspension or removal.

The judicial board will have 90 days to make a decision following the hearing, said Reiko Callner, executive director of the commission.

Wulle’s charges relate to the high-profile sentencing hearing in March 2009 of cop-shooter Matthew Hastings, in which the judge told Hastings to “shut your damn mouth” and threatened to have him gagged.

At another hearing in March 2011, the judge shouted at a juvenile that he was “stupid” for wanting to plead guilty to a probation violation without his attorney present.

In a hearing for a civil protection order in October 2011, Wulle told a man using a Russian interpreter: “This is not the Soviet Union.” The judge made the statement after the man argued that a paternity test did not use the proper DNA testing.

In another juvenile hearing in July 2010, Wulle held a teenager in contempt of court and ordered him to be jailed for five days after the teen swore at him.

Wulle answered the complaint last month, explaining that he had lost his temper during the hearings and vowing to receive counseling for his stress and anxiety.

The judge, who is up for election this year against a private practice civil attorney, David Gregerson, has been disciplined before. Wulle was censured in 2007 for his behavior at a training conference in Los Angeles, where he used profanity, made an obscene gesture in response to a request to lower his voice and referred to Clark County’s group facilitator as “the black gay guy,” according to commission documents.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.